Tuesday, February 9, 2010
From Tailwheel To Turbine
Total transition training, the Gauntlet way
Vess Velikov (left) and Greg Morris (right) are two of Gauntlet’s highly experienced instructors.
“This is the first aircraft Russian military pilots would fly,” Morris explains. “It has a thick wing, almost like off of a Cherokee, and it only cruises at 250 to 280 knots, but it has the handling qualities they wanted.”
The L-39, successor to the L-29, has the needle-nosed look of a modern fighter. Air-conditioned, heated and pressurized, it’s also comfortable to fly. Introduced in the late 1960s, the L-39 has been used as both a jet trainer and light-attack aircraft, and is still flown by more than 30 air forces worldwide. Maximum speed is 490 knots, or Mach 0.8, and it has a +8/-4 G-load limit.
Gauntlet offers transition and unusual attitude training in both jets. The transition course covers basic aerobatics, unusual attitude recoveries, simulated flameouts and high-altitude operations. The unusual attitudes course includes stalls and recoveries in all attitudes, with an emphasis on achieving and maintaining corner velocity under G-loading, that is, minimizing airframe stress in an upset recovery.
Morris preps author Jim Wynbrandt for their formation flight.
Rates for the aircraft range from $165 an hour for the Decathlon (instructor, an additional $75) to $1,700 per hour for the L-39. Gauntlet’s turnkey programs now draw students from as far as Europe and Australia who spend vacation time earning endorsements and type ratings that would be impossible or prohibitively expensive to get back home. But the school also aims to attract a local crowd with what Morris calls “the pure sport aviation pitch: Taking a half-day break from the wife or husband and kids, and just flying for an hour or an hour and a half in an aerobatic airplane or warbird, and going back home and having your life.”
That’s what brings Stewart, who has racked up about 150 hours in the two years he has been flying with Gauntlet. “This isn’t stuff you fly cross-country; this is stuff you go out and have fun in, and really learn to fly,” he says. “That’s the beauty of what Greg’s got here: You can go out and have these different experiences in all these different planes.”
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