Welcome to leg 40 of the ATWC. We'll be departing from Dallas-Ft. Worth, KDFW, a veritable rabbit
warren, with more runways, taxiways, control towers and terminal buildings than you can find in the
whole of some third world countries. They do things big in Texas! There are seven runways (yes, seven,
Smeagol. That's one more than that aviation sand trap they're building in the Middle East. :mrhappy:) It has
three control towers, East, Central and South. They are close enough together, however, that from each
one, you can still see both the others.
Our destination today is Tampa, Florida, not all that far from my place - about 80 miles, as the buzzard flies.
Tampa is a beautiful city on picturesque bay. It's a bustling area with a major seaport in the bay. All the
land areas around the bay are connected by a very few bridges, some very long, making the traffic a
nightmare. One bridge has a sign warning you to check your gas supply before getting on the bridge - it's
true, I swear it. We'll be going into KTPA, Tampa International, the main commercial airport in the area,
though McDill AFB is nearby too, as well as a number of lesser fields.
If things go according to plan today, we may be meeting friends briefly along the route of our flight.
Since our preceding pilot, Fred, made ATWC history with an enroute stop, I'll follow in his worthy footsteps.
We will also have a brief pause enroute, but we won't linger there quite as long as Fred did. By the way, Fred,
should we consider your flights as Legs 39 and 39-1/2? (Joe Ellwood did make a brief enroute stop near
New Zealand, and like Fred, arrived in a different AC, but I don't think that one counts.)
EDIT: I think I've made an oversight. I said Fred was the first to fly a multi-flight leg, but had
forgotten about the long Pacific leg(s) in the Shorts Empress by a gent who lives in "Darkest Wales".
Sorry, David. I was thinking about it this morning and realized that I'd completely forgotten that leg
had an overnight layover, complete with some missing aircrew who had gone native. My humble apologies;
no disrespect intended. That was actually one of my favorite episodes. - JDA
As for the high points of our flight plan, our route today will take us over New Orleans, still bailing out and
digging out from hurricane Katrina. I also built in a small detour to route us over the OCF VOR at Ocala airport,
KOCF. I've been seen there from time to time lurking on the wrong side of the fence; that is on the side without
airplanes. In addition, there's a mystery destination - stay tuned!
Our ride today is the Lockheed S-3A Viking, an all around workhorse for the US Navy. Though it started life
as an ASW hunter-killer and is specialized for that, it can also take on all manner of other missions, including
that of tanker. Vikings often provide a drink to aircraft returning to the carrier low on fuel, or to those who've
boltered a landing or two and are getting low. It must be very relaxing for a young Naval Aviator who's just
fouled up two or three traps to spend a few quiet moments trying to hook up to a tanker - just the thing to settle
It's sad to say that the Viking, too, like some of it's noble stable-mates, is on the way to retirement. The Navy
is in the process of phasing them out. If the trend continues, sometime soon the Navy is going to look around
and find that all they have left are FA-18s. So let's get a ride in an S-3 while they're still available, shall we?
This first photo is an aerial view of the corner of KDFW where we're parked. This shows about an eighth
of the airport, but you get the idea. It's likely we'll need progressive taxi instructions to get out of this place,
even with an airport diagram. We did get a break, however. ATIS says that only five of the runways are in
And here's our ride, all folded up like a yoga master. Let's get aboard and get the APU cranked up so we can
start the hydraulics and get her unfolded for the pre-flight inspection.
If we could do this fast enough, it would fly. Do you know what an ornithopter is?
Here are a few shots of taken during our flight preparations. Do you think DFW got a good price on
The Navy gents refer to the S-3 as the Hoover. These big turbofans give it a unique sound, and they can gather
up any FOD that's not beyond the horizon.
We have the engines started and have our IFR clearance now so we're ready to request clearance to taxi.
We've been directed to 36R today, the runway nearest to where we're parked. Sometimes things just
work out. Life is good!
Then again, we discovered during our taxiing that the frame rate gods are not happy today. But eventually,
we're lined up - more or less - and ready to go!
Rolling - this thing goes like a bat out of hell!
Initial climb is very good!
...and we begin our turn to the east with some of the Dallas downtown and another airport visible in the distance.
Our call sign today is Navy 2, and we're given our first handoff to center. I guess you only get to be Navy 1 if
the President's aboard. I invited him, but he's busy.
Since our route of flight is so long today, let's pass some of the time by looking over the aircraft. Here's a
classic view of the planform...
This shot gives a good view of the, "Buddy Stores" pod (a really, really dumb name), containing the hose
reel and refueling drogue. The engineer in me notes that there must be some very tricky hose routing in
there, as the reel almost has to be oriented axially in the pod. There are indicator lights on either side of
the drogue pocket. I'm sure the customers know what they mean - I don't.
Here are some more close-up shots. The first one shows the tail hook tucked up into its well and the
sono-buoy dispensers. There's a bomb bay forward that can accommodate bombs, torpedoes,
air-to-surface missiles and depth charges - but not all at once.
Level at our cruising altitude, flight level 310.
We're coming up now on New Orleans to the left, with the Mississippi river beyond. We saw this river a couple
of weeks ago far to the north, on our approach into St. Louis.
We've cancelled IFR now and are descending to meet our friends. We do have a little problem however, one
that's going to require a change of plans. The keyboard is locked up; almost nothing works, except,
thankfully, the Print Screen key, so we can keep going. This means that re-filing IFR and climbing back up
to the flight levels is not going to happen, as we cannot use the number keys to acknowledge any radio
instructions. We'll have to stay lower and go on into Tampa VFR, and I'm afraid the flyover at Ocala isn't
going to happen either.
Ah, there they are now - right where they said they'd be.
We're just going to take a brief detour here and try our hand with a carrier touch and go - I don't think
it's called a bolter unless it's unintentional. We've carefully checked that the tail hook is UP, since we don't
want to stop. I understand they're serving bean soup tonight. Now I like bean soup as well as the next man,
but with about 5,000 other guys eating bean soup, I don't think I want to stay. Let's just check that tail hook
up one more time.
We're very high. Did I mention that the frame rate gods are not cooperating today? Perhaps it's
because the frame rate goddesses are not cooperating with them - I don't know. All I do know is that
this flightus interruptus business makes things very difficult. It's a lot like watching a PowerPoint slide show.
I'm sure you've heard that it's very hard make a good landing out of a bad approach. Well, I proved it
once again here today. I did make a touchdown, very far along the deck. It wouldn't have mattered
if I'd had the hook down anyway because there weren't any arresting cables that far forward. What's
more it was a very hard contact.
After flying away from the scene of the crash, umm, touchdown, I discovered we have an additional
problem besides the keyboard issue and the frame rate. The landing gear switch on the CH flight yoke
will not work. The gear is stuck down. The green light is still on, indicating it's locked, but who
knows? This is starting to feel like, deja vu all over again. Is this flight going to Columbus? Thankfully
the flap switch still works though. Now, we're not only going to go on to Tampa VFR, but we're going to do
it with fixed landing gear. Fortunately, the fuel supply is adequate.
An F-16 out of Eglin AFB makes a quick fly by and examines our landing gear. It LOOKS all right, but what
does an Air Force guy know? They don't even have tail hooks.
Here's Tyndall AFB near Panama City, Florida, as we limp our way along the coast toward Tampa.
At last, on final for KTPA runway 36 L.
Well, life is good again after all. The landing gear did not collapse when we touched down. Here we are
turning to exit the runway.
And safely parked at Tampa.
Just some last minute notes here - you knew I'd have more to say, didn't you? The Viking and the USS George
Washington are courtesy of Abacus from their Flight Deck III program. FDIV is the current version, I believe.
Flight Deck is a very nice program which includes about a half-dozen AC. The exteriors, cockpits and flight
models are pretty good, but seem kind of hard on frame rates. Also, I didn't want to reveal this earlier
as I didn't want to scare anyone off, but prior to this flight I have only had about a half hour in this AC and
it's very different from what I usually fly. I learned a lot today, but I had fun too. I hope you can say the same!
The problems I described are real. The keyboard did lock up, and the frame rates could have pulled a
35 inch vacuum on an onion sack - they sucked harder than those two big fanjets. Also, the landing gear
really would not retract after the controlled crash on the carrier deck. I swear it. You can't make this stuff up!