Some Memories by
4960 Captain Peter Scholz, Royal Canadian Air Force
On Flying the Supersonic CF 101 Voodoo Fighter Jet
The Voodoo was the most fantastic toy that a young man could ever wish for. If Santa ever had one, he would have kept it for himself.
Its top speed was faster than the muzzle velocity of a .22 long rifle bullet. It had a roll rate of M0 degrees/second. That means that in one second you could do 1 and 1/2 snap rolls. For decades it held the time to altitude record: from brake release to 35,000 feet in 1.8 minutes. When its fuel load was less than 8,000 lbs., it had more thrust than weight and could accelerate going straight up like a rocket.
Being stationed at Comox on Vancouver Island we had frequent successful military missions, mostly simulated attacks on real aircraft targets. We also had fun. Buttle Lake was a winding, serpentine shaped lake on Vancouver Island a few minutes from our base. It had steep mountain sides. At the end of a military training flight, we could cancel IFR and have some free time to fly just above the lake surface, a hard and fast 90 degree banked slalom course for the full length of the lake. Approaching the rock face at the end of the last turn, we would light both afterburners and disappear straight up and out of sight. It was exhilarating and a true adrenaline rush.
On a more environmentally friendly mission, I flew the highest I have ever flown in any aircraft, which was 64,500 feet. This was an interesting achievement, as the airplane cannot technically fly at that altitude. The air is much too thin to support this type of aircraft at that altitude. The airplane weighs about the same as a full size bulldozer and the wings are not very big. The way to do it was to go at top supersonic speed at 45,000 feet, then snap up. During the brief, steep climb the thrust is reduced by the thin air and speed falls rapidly. You roll over and go over the top of an arc upside down, with about 0.4 g acting normally through your body, i.e. up through your feet which are above your head. The speed over the top is less than flying speed, but at 0.4 g, you still have good maneuverability. After passing the peak, the nose drops and speed increases. When you’re back in the envelope, you can come out of burner, roll over and pull out of the dive. It was a totally satisfying experience and felt close to being an astronaut.
Not all events went as smoothly. One dark night my navigator and I had an experience that frightened the living daylights out of both of us. Our airplanes were factory rated for a top speed of 900 knots. It was a favourite game, just once, to see 1,000 knots on the clock. You had to agree with your navigator that you were going to do it, as both lives were at stake. At that speed, at -70 degrees F, if the airplane disintegrated, you were dead meat, shredded and flash frozen.
We decided to do it, to earn our ‘1,000 knot club’ membership. We accelerated to supersonic, climbed to 52,000 feet and then dived with both engines at full throttle and full afterburners. As the clock reached 1,000 knots, I came out of burner and throttled back in one quick motion. The result was a huge explosive bang and enormous flames coming forward from the air intakes and engulfing both sides of our canopy. We were not aware that this was a very rare, harmless phenomenon caused by a compressor stall. It looked frighteningly dramatic on that dark night. For an instant, we both thought we were goners! Compressor stalls like that were not mentioned in ground school.
In addition to all of its state of the art avionics equipment, the Voodoo had a phenomenal FM stereo system. At altitude, stations came in clearly from hundreds of miles away. Our headsets were custom made to measure and ear pads filled with liquid silicone to block out all unwanted ambient noise. During exercises, we could glide silently above snow capped BC mountain scenery and sparkling night valleys, hunting US B52 and B47 bombers, while listening to opera like Puccini’s La Boheme.
From Comox many of our exercises took us out to the Pacific, west of Vancouver Island. In those waters Russian trawlers were fishing for salmon. The mother ship served not only to process and refrigerate the salmon, but was equipped with the latest electronic intelligence equipment and perfectly bilingual operators to monitor the North American west coast air exercises. If we received clearance to go ‘super’, they would ask a few minutes later in perfect english and sounding like our ground control -“Alpha Golf 04, how fast are you going now?” At one time they said -“Alpha Golf 04, turn port 260.” This was the direction to Hawaii. They were hoping we would follow their instructions, run out of radio contact and fuel and crash somewhere in the Pacific.
In retaliation, we boomed them. By explanation, military aircraft are not permitted to go supersonic over land or below 30,000 feet altitude, otherwise the shock wave breaks
all the windows on the ground in its path. In our retaliation, we got a fix on the mother ship and did a supersonic dive toward it, pulling out at low level, which I’m sure broke some of their reinforced plate glass windows and bent some of their elaborate and expensive antennas.
In order to save tire wear all Voodoo takeoffs were done in afterburner. At night the flames were apparent. During day time they were not visible, only the extra noise was there. The trickiest parts were formation takeoffs in afterburner. By way of explanation, afterburners increase thrust by 60% by pumping 3,000 psi of fuel spray directly into the exhaust. In order to get the burning started, each engine is injected with a streak of excess fuel which carries a flame 30 feet back from the engine to the exhaust and causes a near explosion as the exhaust fuel mixture ignites and continues its burn. One problem is that there is a 3-5 second delay from burner selection to ignition. Sometime the left may come on in 3 seconds and the right in 5, or vice versa. Each ignition feels like a giant’s kick on one side of your rear. On takeoff, if the left burner comes on first, it will kick the nose to the right. With very quick and precise corrective action, the nose can be kept relatively straight and out of the way of your No.2 until the other burner comes on and does the same thing in reverse.
The command was always -“Burners, Burners, Go!”, but sometimes No.2 had ignition first and he would helplessly shoot past the leader until the leader had a chance to catch up and resume his position. Coming out of burner and back in made it even more complicated. Most of us experienced some extremely hairy maneuvers on formation burner takeoffs. Great stories for the bar and lucky to be here today. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to fly an airplane as exciting as the Voodoo.