Another "Oshkosh Moment" - Part 6 of 10 in a Series (and this one blew my mind!)

7:39 PM

Read previous parts of this series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

O.K., sure, I write about Oshkosh a lot here on Airplanista. I’ve you’ve been to the show, you know why. If you have never been to the World’s Largest Aviation Celebration, you may not be able to understand how this show stays with you all year, and the memories you make there stay with you for life. It got me thinking about some of those cherished “Oshkosh Moments” I have experienced over the years.

So if you are not yet oversaturated on me writing about Oshkosh, here’s another installment of my Top 10 list:

4. “Flying” Bud Anderson's P-51 “Old Crow” (2017) – I will start this part of the series with a pull quote from my 2017 coverage of Oshkosh: “I have just had easily the most intense “Oshkosh moment” of all my years covering this show. It was the kind of intense that you get when you are augering a fast airplane into the ground and the pastureland is rapidly filling up your windscreen.”

What happened is this: I was invited to try out the Redbird Flight Simulations MX2 full-motion simulator they set up in Warbird Alley, a very real example of C.E. “Bud” Anderson’s P-51 Mustang “Old Crow” he flew in WWII. I was told by Josh Harnagel, Redbird’s VP, Marketing that the flying characteristics of this custom-built sim were very accurate, and he promised that it would blow my mind if I flew it. I have aced X-Plane a few times, so I thought I could easily virtually drive a P-51 around the countryside. Oh how wrong I was. Here’s some more from that 2017 Airplanista coverage:

After a golf cart ride from the massive Redbird booth, the crew running the Old Crow sim set me up in the pilot’s seat, and asked me if I wanted to start in the air or on the ground. No brainer, I thought, I have to try taking off, so we started on the runway. I felt like I had this aced, because of course like every pilot, I knew that with its monster engine and prop, the P-51’s power needs to be rolled in slowly, and you need to give it plenty of right hoof to stay on centerline. Not a problem. OK, one problem: You cannot see over the front of the P-51 at all, and can barely see the runway out a sliver of the side canopy. The crew manning the sim laughed when I said I wanted to take it off, and told me “go ahead, but you are going to crash. After that happens, we’ll start you in the air.” They had little confidence in Av8rdan’s supreme piloting skills.
They were right. I rolled on just enough power to get rolling, and gave it increasingly more right rudder and a little forward stick until it nosed over just enough for me to see that I was now 90 degrees to the runway, barreling off through the GRASS at Duxford, England. All hell broke loose as I increased power – it became like an aviation bull ride, hang on for eight seconds and they give you a gold belt buckle. Bounding through the grass, I did manage to get airborne, and in the span of about .000056 seconds, “Old Crow” accelerated to over 200 MPH, and I went straight into the trees. It was ugly, but loads of fun.
So the crew placed me in the air, and I was easily able to fly straight and level. Wanting to begin a climb left turn, I guess I pulled the stick back and kicked in rudder before advancing the throttle. Dumbass thing to do in a Mustang. In the blink of an eye, Old Crow’s left wing apparently stalled and around I went, straight into a very violent SPIN. The pristine English countryside was rotating fast in the windscreen, and the MX2 full-motion sim made it feel all too real. Again from the 2017 coverage:
With the ground spinning rotations of what felt like about one-half second per revolution, it took about 10 rotations for me to even realize what was going on. When I did, even without ever having any actual spin training, I knew to pull back power and nose over to get the wings flying again. But no matter what I did, adding opposite direction rudder, giving it right aileron, the rotations just kept increasing in speed. The full-motion capability of the sim actually was causing my heart rate to explode off the charts. At this precise moment, try telling my brain this was a simulation. I was doomed to fly Anderson’s airplane straight into the ground. But after about 10 more rotations, the spinning slowed and then stopped, the airspeed picked back up, the horizon became level, and I was able to gently pull the nose up, and was soon flying straight and level again…somehow. I am still not 100% sure how I did it, but I had just recovered from an extreme spin situation in a P-51, all while the full-motion of the MX2 was screwing with my brain big time.

Now back flying – and with the line forming behind me surely entertained at this point, I pushed the nose over at 5,000MSL, and with Duxford under my left wing, thought it’d be a great idea to buzz the field. I was far less ham-handed on the stick, and as the altitude peeled away, I lined up with the runway and added max power. When I hit maybe 500’ AGL, I pulled the nose level, and blasted across the airport at top speed, imagining what the sound of "Old Crow" must have been like down below when Anderson did the same thing, and we all know he did. At midfield, I yanked the stick almost into my crotch and stomped left rudder, and like a show plane, "Old Crow" went nose to the sky and I completed a seriously cool high-speed pass. With that, the sim operator terminated the flight with a mouse click. My short flight was over, and it was incredible.

With a fully-restored real Old Crow just yards away from the sim in the warbirds area, flying the Redbird sim was as close as I will ever come to logging P-51 Mustang time. It took me well over an hour to get my nerves under control, as this “Oshkosh Moment” was far too real. Redbird’s MX2 full-motion simulator is as good as it gets without enrolling at Flightsafety, I mean seriously real. The reality of it all sucks you in and the fact you are flying a sim melts away. In this case, it might have been a touch TOO real.

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