Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 1, 2008

SIAI-Marchetti SF.260: Bellisimo In Tre Dimensioni

Yeah, it’s Italian, and if you’re thinking “flying Ferrari or Lamborghini,” you’re ABSOLUTELY right

Just as I'm about to squeeze the trigger, the airplane ahead jinks into a tight, descending right turn, wings nearly perpendicular to the ground, pulling hard. I'm caught a little off guard and wrap my airplane over, slightly past vertical, trying to catch up. The adrenaline pumps, and I pull too hard and push the G-meter to 5.0, right into the stall buffet.

My vision tunnels, I back off just enough to ease some G and remember my name, then roll back to 70 degrees of bank and strain my neck against the G's to look for the bad guy. He was smarter than I was, didn't pull as hard and saved some of his energy. My untimely stall caused me to mush, lose energy and position while he continued to turn. He's well ahead of me now, gaining on me in the turn.

I pull harder, again encountering the airplane's signature buffet, and my instructor chuckles at this amateurish mistake. I swear into the intercom, back off the stick, roll level and unload the airplane momentarily in hopes of gaining some energy. Then I reverse and pull again to gain height and challenge my adversary from above.
My flight suit is soaked in sweat; I'm obviously being too aggressive with the airplane, and I'm having way too much fun.

This was air combat with everything but the guns. It was 15 years ago, and Air Combat USA of Fullerton, Calif., had graciously allowed me to try my hand as a fighter pilot.

Well, almost, anyway.

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