Visualizing Flight Maneuvers and Air Combat; a peek into a fighter pilots world

Why do pilots fly with their hands? Because explaining the intricacies of flight maneuvers, especially something as dynamic as air combat is nearly impossible even to the initiated, with out a visual aid. Flight by it’s very nature is three dimensional. When you mix in maneuver, concepts such as the laws of aerodynamics, get harder to describe and extremely hard to understand. Toss in the ability to defy aerodynamics through the use of physics and sorcery and it is nearly impossible.

Consider the trajectory of a bullet. Shot from a gun it will travel straight ahead in a linear motion until the forces of gravity and aerodynamics act upon it slowly pulling it to the ground as it decelerates. Gravity of the earth is measured as 1 g. What happens to that same bullet at 4 or 6 g’s? Using the aircraft as a reference it falls away much faster. Like water from a hose; thus the fighter pilot slang: “I hosed him”. Now try and grasp not only just the trajectory of that single bullet, or a stream of bullets, imagine it in a fifty aircraft dog fight. An entire sky lit up with tracers and full of aircraft trying to vector those curving, swirling bullets on to another maneuvering aircraft, all the while working very hard to not absorb or merge with any. Now contemplate trying to describe it, keep it comprehensible, fun and interesting.

I start my novels by mixing in maneuvers and basic flight procedures with the story line, so that as the action builds I don’t have to slow it down. As a flight instructor I know people absorb information at different levels. Even for pilots; Air Combat Maneuvering or ACM as we call it; is the hardest to absorb. Many never do, a few seem to comprehend it instinctively. Thus the disparity in war. Some fall quickly, others claim ace status (5 kills) in a single flight.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

As an author I know that to be true; it is what we struggle to present, a picture, while at the same time holding the readers attention. A balance. When I was a little boy a friend asked me to describe an aircraft performing a loop. I thought about it; then I picked up a text book, on subsequent pages I progressed a stick drawing along the bottom of the page, then up the margin and then back down through the text, near the binding, finally ending up where it started. He watched patiently; I then told him to look over my shoulder and thumbed through the pages quickly. Like a Saturday cartoon the motion gave life to the maneuver. He got it, instantly. A picture, or in this case a series of pictures unlocked the mystery. Friends who have read one of my books sometimes ask me questions at Happy Hour about ACM or basic aircraft maneuvers; after a conversation involving wild hand gestures, a smile of cognition normally registers. A conundrum: how can I convey that insight to all my readers?

A peek is worth a thousand scans.

Behind the ship at night; a quick peek outside (at the ship) would give you instant situational awareness. We would sneak a peek and then return to scanning the flight instruments. “Wow; I am way left of course, ships turning.” What I have always intended to do with my writing, is to put the reader not only in the world of an Aviator or Warrior, but actually in the cockpit or fox hole. As I have said before, I am an analog man trapped in a digital world. But; I have learned how to use it. So, through the magic of IT, I will give you the reader a peek. A peek of actual footage; a few precious seconds of video will give you the situational awareness to grasp flight and aerial combat with out slowing down the story. By the end of Vengeance you will not only grasp flight, you will understand Air Warfare, and you will do it as a Wing-man to the characters. You are going to be a squadron member; so strap in tight. We are on an intercept heading and closing fast……….

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