One of my old COs flew Spads… Including training for their nuclear (one way) mission of loft bombing and running like hell…

Radial Starting (3350 engine on an A-1H)

Be sure you drain both the sumps. (You can fill your Zippo lighter while you do this)
Look out the left side of the oily cockpit canopy and notice a very nervous person holding a huge fire bottle. Nod to this person.
1.  Crack throttle about one-quarter of an inch. 
2.  Battery on 
3.  Mags on 
4.  Fuel boost on 
5.  Hit starter button (The four-bladed 13′ 6′ prop will start a slow turn) 
6.  8 blades later, begin to bounce your finger on top of the primer button. 
a.  This act requires finesse and style. It is much like a ballet performance. The engine must be seduced and caressed into starting.
7.  Act one will begin: Belching, banging, rattling, backfiring, sputtering, flame and black smoke from the exhaust shooting out about three feet. (Fire bottle person is very pale and has the nozzle at the ready position) 
8.  When the engine begins to “catch” on the primer. Move the mixture to full rich. 
The flames from the exhaust will stop and white smoke will come out. (Fire bottle guy relaxes a bit) You will hear a wonderful throaty roar that is like music to the ears.. 
a. Enjoy the macho smell of engine oil, hydraulic fluid, and pilot sweat.
9.  Immediately check the oil pressure and hydraulic gages. 
10. The entire aircraft is now shaking and shuddering from the torque of the engine and RPM of the prop. 
a.  The engine is an 18 cylinder R-3350 that develops 2,700 HP.
11. Close cowl flaps to warm up the engine for taxi. 
12. Once you glance around at about 300 levers, gauges and gadgets, call the tower to taxi to the duty runway.

Take off in the AD-6
1.     Check both magnetos
2.     Exercise the prop pitch
3.     Cowl flaps open.
4.     Check oil temp and pressure.
5.     Crank 1.5 degrees right rudder trim to help your right leg with the torque on takeoff.
6.     Tell the tower you are ready for the duty runway. 
7.     Line the bird up and lock the tail wheel for sure. 
8.     Add power slowly because the plane (with the torque of the monster prop and engine power definitely wants to go left). 
9.      NEVER add full power suddenly! There is not enough rudder in the entire world to hold it straight. 
10.     Add more power and shove in right rudder till your leg begins to tremble. 
11.     Expect banging, belching and an occasional manly fart as you roar down the runway at full power. 
        (I have found that the engine can make similar noises)
12.     Lift the tail and when it “feels right” pull back gently on the stick to get off the ground. 
13.     Gear up 
14.     Adjust the throttle for climb setting 
15.     Ease the prop back to climb RPM 
16.     Close cowl flaps and keep an eye on the cylinder head temp. 
17.     Adjust the power as needed as you climb higher or turn on the supercharger. 

 Flying with the round engine.
1.      Once you reach altitude which isn’t very! high (about 8000 feet) you reduce the throttle and prop to cruise settings. 
2.      The next fun thing is to pull back the mixture control until the engine just about quits. Then ease it forward a bit and this is the best mixture.. 
3.      While cruising the engine sounds like it might blow or quit at any time This keeps you occupied scanning engine gauges for the least hint of trouble. 
4.      Moving various levers around to coax a more consistent sound from the engine concentrates the mind wonderfully. 
5      At night or over water a radial engine makes noises you have never heard before. 
6.      Looking out of the front of the cockpit the clouds are beautiful because they are slightly blurred from the oil on the cockpit canopy. 
7.      Seeing lightning in the clouds ahead increases the pucker factor by about 10. 
a.  You can’t fly high enough to get over them and if you try and get under the clouds—-you will die in turbulence. 
b.  You tie down everything in the cockpit that isn’t already secured, get a good grip on the stick, turn on the deicers, tighten and lock your shoulder straps and hang on. 
c.  You then have a ride to exceed any “terror” ride in any amusement park ever built. You discover the plane can actually fly sidewise while inverted.
8.      Once through the weather, you call ATC and in a calm deep voice advise them that there is slight turbulence on your route. 
9.      You then scan your aircraft to see if all the major parts are still attached. This includes any popped rivets. 
10.     Do the controls still work? Are the gauges and levers still in proper limits? 
11.     These being done you fumble for the relief tube because you desperately need it. (Be careful with your lower flight suit zipper)

The jet engine and aircraft

Start a jet
1. Fuel boost on. 
2.  Hit the start button 
3.  When the JPT starts to move, ease the throttle forward. 
4.  The fire bottle person is standing at the back of the plane and has no idea what is going on. 
5.  The engine lights off—and— 
6. That’s about it.

Take off in the jet
1.  Lower flaps 
2.  Tell the tower you are ready for takeoff. 
3.  Roll on to the duty runway while adding 100% power. 
4.  Tricycle gear—no tail to drag—no torque to contend with. 
5.  At some exact airspeed, you lift off the runway. 
6.  Gear up 
7.  Milk up the flaps and fly. 
8. Leave the power at 100%

Flying the jet
1.  Climb at 100% 
2.  Cruise at 100% 
3.  It is silent in the plane. 
4.  You can’t see clouds because you are so far above them. 
5.  You look down and see lightning in some clouds below and pity some poor fool that may have to fly through that mess. 
6.  The jet plane is air conditioned!! Round engines are definitely not. If you fly in tropical areas, this cannot be stressed enough. 
7.  There is not much to do in a jet, so you eat your flight lunch at your leisure. 
8.  Few gauges to look at and no levers to adjust. This leaves you doodling on your kneeboard. 
9. Some call girlfriends on their cell phones: “Guess where I am etc”

My old CO said the worst problem he ever had in a Spad was the relief tube being blocked on a six hour mission… 😀


TBT… — 20 Comments

  1. When my dad took his final flight, Coming In On A Wing And A Prayer, in 1996, the house was FULL of “Auncient Aviators.” There was much talk about a society of aviators from the radial engine days. I cannot, at this remove, recall the name of the organization, but it SEEMS as if it was something like “V-18 Group.” (Might be missing that by a mile.)

  2. Maybe Langley’s experiments with steam powered aircraft should have been pursued.
    Not sure where the aircraft coal bunkers should be placed, and I’m not sure what the Navy Rating insignia for the flying coal shoveler rate would look like.
    (coal shovel and fire with wings?)

    In reference to Navy aircraft with round engines,I was a passenger and it was very exciting to watch the inner starboard round engine burst into flames when taking off from Rota, and by exciting I mean terrifying. And the word terrifying might just be understating what I felt.

  3. For those not initiated, BTW,”fire bottle”=fire extinguisher. Some poor enlisted schmuck had to stand by holding same in the fond hope that if the aircraft bursts into flames the taxpayers’ investment can be saved.
    On Army UH models, this is usually the crew chief that is going on the mission; on EH60s it was the flying secret squirrel who was scheduled to operate the direction finding system.
    Somehow, despite being the platoon sergeant, it always seemed to be me, until I realized there was slightly more legroom on the jammer side and pulled rank.

    • Heya, Duffie! It’s good to hear from some of you guys. We Kilos got the boring jobs. You guys and the Golfs had wonderful stories of daring-do. The Hogs, of course, had “coffee”.

  4. How come model kits never have the relief tube output marked? 😮

  5. When you get to the part where you are nursing the primer button , it is best to hold it down for a few seconds before bringing up the mixture control! That makes for a smoother transition, but having only been the mech and not aboard the single seaters, we weren’t there to correct those pilots transgressions. BUT, on the -4 N’s, -5Q’s and _5W’s, It didn’t faze me at all to gently correct the more flagrant ones! Spent about 650 hrs in a 4N target towing model!

  6. Forgot one thing, whenever a new guy would check in to the squadron , it was de-riguer to have them clear the yellow sheet gripe about the plugged up ” P” tube. They were led to believe this was the pitot tube, and to go to the bottom of the plane and blow like hell till you feel it ‘Pop”. I must admit that I fell for it too!

  7. Flew in Connies and Neptunes with the 3350’s. Deal on the P-2 was if you backfired one on startup you owed the crew a case of beer. I won a bet one time with the plane captain on a maintenance turn that I could start it without a backfire. Won a case of Oly.

  8. And if the eight blades stopped abruptly before ignition commenced, you had a hydraulic lock. If you were lucky, someone found that before you put power to the engine. If not, you might blow the cylinder off the plane.

    At least the Spad didn’t use the “Armstrong” starter… 🙂

  9. Enjoyed the heck out of this post. It was like listening to my dad who piloted just about everything there was to fly in his day.

  10. All- Thanks for the comments! Flugelman, that doesn’t count as beer… LOL

    Posted from my iPhone.

    • Beggars can’t be choosers. It’s what he bought so I drank it, shared with some others.

  11. NFO, the Oly from 40 years ago was better than some of the water that tasted like beer, no need to mention a brand name. 🙂

  12. Your comments about the relief tube brings to mind what I/We suffered at the hands of ground pounders who either were practical jokers or disgruntled payback artists. The port on the belly of the H-46 pointed straight down, but was cut on the bias towards the rear. When they wanted, they could reverse it to face forward, causing it to ram air into the plumbing, instead of sucking. So it (pardon the milspeak) behooved us to to check suction with our hand before filling the cone with recycled coffee. Nothing like an eight hour VERTREP with a damp, smelly flight suit.

  13. I still fly round motors, C-45, T-28, and ocassionally a AD-4, Nothing makes you smile better than having a round engine talk to you, and nothing feels better than when all the noise goes away and you are where you want to be.

    • Yeah, it truly is an enjoyable experience, unless of course when all the noise goes away and your arent yet where you want to be, then its not so much fun anymore.

  14. This post brings back many memories.

    At DaNang in 1967-68, USAF 6th, 9th, and 602nd SOS flew A1E, A1H, and A1J Skyraiders, often in support of HH-53 Jolly Green rescue helos of the 37th AARS. They shared ramp and maintenance with the AC-47’s of the 4th SOS.

    All of their radial powered birds were maintained extremely well, and when an alert was raised, you never saw a prop turn more than one revolution before the engine fired up. Ready to go at all times, their average alert to take-off time was 3-5 minutes. We were always happy to have them around.

    I think the Navy had a rougher history with the beast. Occasionally, we would have Navy Skyraders stop into DaNang due to weather, damage, or maybe a burning desire to experience our next rocket attack. It was common practice for the transient maintenance crews to provide two fire bottles with attendants, or sometimes a fire truck would stand-by when they prepared to depart. Lots of coughing, banging, smoke, fire out the pipes, amazing they ever got them airborne.