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McGuire AFB Tour and C17 level D Simulator flight.

Now this was a trip well worth the time off from work (and the late night that followed making up for the lost time). A fellow flying friend of ours invited us to a VIP tour of McGuire AirForce Base (McGuire is now a joint services base but I grew up calling it an Air Force base so I am sticking to it for now :-)) Included in the trip was a chance to fly the C17 Level D Simulator and tour some aircraft. I had flown an AirForce simulator once before (the T6 at Randolph AFB TX), but it wasn’t level D (full motion for the non aviation readers) so I was looking forward to it!

On to the tour:
The plan was to meet at the Visitor center at 10:45. I made it a point to arrive early since I didn’t want to make them wait for me especially after the trouble our host had gone to so I could attend. I arrived at 10:15. When I handed my drivers license over to the girl behind the counter, she asked “how much weight did you loose?” I replied “about 50 pounds.. Why?” she replied “you don’t look like your picture at all… Good for you” Thanks.. Well she just made my day!

The rest of our party arrived on time and were soon checked in. Our hosts had arranged for a bus to drive us around base and after a quick lunch we were off to the simulator. The simulator could only fit two member of our party at a time so the rest of us hung out in the break room telling flying stories. My stories just don’t stand up to a C17 pilot that has been flying for almost as long as I have been walking; so I did my best to listen and not talk anyone’s ear off. 🙂

Flying the C17 Level D Simulator: 
My only regret was that I waited until the very end to go for my sim fight. They were running out of time and we had real C17 pilots waiting on us by the time we got into the sim. We climbed the stairs and strapped in. The first thing I noticed was the HUD and that that you fly the C17 with a stick. This seemed a little out of place at first and I was expecting it to be sensitive based on the reviews from other members in our party. I have a few hours in the Lancair 360 (a very touchy airplane) so felt that I might be somewhat prepared.





Time to fly:

The instructor had the sim frozen at about 12,000 feet a few miles out from some airport in the desert (Afghanistan?). I sat down and looked forward “okay you’re flying. Just keep that line along with that first line” WHAT and what line? Well, anyway, it took me a few minutes to figure out what he was referring to but once I did, I was in love with the C17! I was most impressed with how well she flew. Not too sensitive but more so than a Cessna 172, I got the feeling that I could fly this big bird quite well with some time in it. Learning the advanced systems would take longer of course (emergency procedures etc) but it’s totally doable. Another thing that worked really well was the auto trim system. When engaged, you just tell it how fast you want to fly and point the flight path ball where you want to go. We didn’t have the auto throttle system engaged so I flew the vertical path using power and horizontal alignment with the aileron / rudder.

The instructor quickly configured the airplane for landing (setting flaps, alert altitudes, speed control, etc). Now I know what people feel like when I am programing the KLN 89b! CLICK CLICK CLICK “What is he doing?” Well Not really This guy knew that airplane like the back of his hand. I just wish I could fly something like that every day. We were on a visual approach at about a 5 – 6 degree approach slope (a little steeper than a normal GA or Airline approach of 3 – 3.5 degrees). He instructed me to keep the flight path ball (in the HUD) on the runway and to control my vertical flight path with power and my horizontal path with bank / rudder. The airplane would hold the airspeed. This made it easy. We descended pretty much on path. I was a bit off for a few minutes but brought her in for a nice touchdown on center line and right about where I was aiming for. The landing is made using power in the C17 not a flair like we are used to in most GA airplanes. With the flaps deployed the thrust from the engines is directed downward. Pretty cool stuff.

Check out this video.

After the sim flight we went out to the flight line to look at the real thing. We got to see how well the AirForce maintains the C17. The one we looked at was a new 2008 with about 1500 hours and it still looked brand new. After checking out the C17 we checked out a KC10 (aerial refueling aircraft). Once done with the aircraft tours we moved on to the RAPCON and Tower. During the tower visit a 747 departed and gave us a little show. Check out the video. 747 Takeoff

Photos from the trip:

Special thanks to:
Lance for putting this together for us. He defiantly went out of his way for me. A trip we will not forget!

And who could forget our host McGuire. Thank you to all that made this possible!

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Amanda Michelle (Younkin) Franklin 3/14/1986 – 5/27/2011 Click for information on Amanda