The first time I flew a Yak 52 on Holiday in Crimea with Jack Hemmings
at a place called Planerskoya. We had gone there responding to an advert
in Pilot Magazine which offered Flying Holidays in Yaks, Antonovs and Wilgas.
At the time we rendezvoued at Gatwick we were complete strangers to
one another. Jack soon became known for being indestructible, indefatigable
and quite mad. Aged 71 at the time he could out fly, out walk and out charm
anybody else in the group. Another Pilot in the group was sure that Jack
wore a vest with a big letter S on it underne the his shirt he just never
seems to get tired. Jack had spent a life time flying everything from Moths
to Dakotas and was in Crimea to add the 52 to his long type list.
We were assigned to our Instructors; Victor Smolin, World Champion 3
years running, and his Trainer, Sergei Tatervosov. A bit intimidating
to say the least! I remember one day, after we had all finished flying,
received our debriefing (which is a polite way of finding out just how
useless we were at flying) Jack spotted a tiny microlight landing at our
Airfield. The Pilot, a young lad who looked no more than 13 years old,
had turned up on the runway with a home built microlight and was offering
flights in it, or rather under it, for what equated to a fiver an hour.
Jack was seen tying a scarf around his head as is to combat toothache,
then took off with the non English speaking teenager and promptly disappeared
down a 400 foot cliff at the end of the runway! An hour or so later Jack
reappeared and made a greaser in the microlight - we thought we'd seen
the last of him over the cliff but Jack insisted that he'd had plenty of
time to work the controls out on the way down. Although he had to admit
that "They were a bit confusing. Everything's backwards you know!". Henceforth
he was Christened Captain Mad Jack.
The next day I started my details with Aerobatics in the 52. My first
ever in a real aerobatic aircraft apart from one flight years earlier when
someone had decided to impress me with their flying skills in a Cherokee
by showing me a stall turn without any warning at all, but that's another
story. So here we were at about 3000 ft above the runway with my Instructor
Sergei Tatervosov sitting in the back shaking his head slowly from time
to time and trying not to run out of patience with the complete idiot in
t he front seat. This particular part of the detail was for me to start
to join some straight forward aerobatic manoeuvres together while keeping
line on the runway below. Spin (one turn) recover on the same line at 300
kph, Loop and again aim to recover on the same line at 300 kph and finally
enter a 45 degree climb, again on line. Easy enough you might think but
after several attempts what marginal flying skill I started with was going
from a promising start (officially categorised as very poor) to downright
rubbish (off icially categorised as "how did he ever get a licence in England").
The more I tried, the more critique I got, the more determined I got,
the harder I pulled. Entering the Loop badly with plenty of yaw and one
wing low, it happened. My first dynamic stall. At about 50 degrees on the
1st quarter of the loop I felt a severe vibration on the stick, in the
aircraft itself and in my nether regions too. I cant remember now if I
stopped pulling at that point, but I know I certainly didn't relax the
pressure on the stick. A quarter of a second later the left wing flicked
over the top of the right one and the world was rotating faster than my
now owl like eyes could follow it. Adrenaline, fear and panic gave my brain
added speed and I remember having time to think that the wing had broken.
As I turned to see if the sticky out thing on the right hand side was still
there, everything stopped, equally as quickly as it had started.
"You like play Horsey horsey eh?",- Sergeys English wasn't very good
in 1992. Now at a time when you are convinced that the wing has broken
and the even though the aircraft is straight and level, your brain is still
rotating like a roulette ball, somebody asks you if you like playing Horsey
horsey - what can you say except. "Wha?".
"You know when aircraft goes like horse",- Sergey tried to explain by
making the noise which he thought sounded like a rampant stallion. While
I was still trying to work out what the he was talking about he then got
through to me by saying that the aircraft had "made a stall at high speed
because you pull too hard on stick" and then he went on to show me all
manner of stalls and proved the theory to me beyond any doubt that an aircraft
really can stall at any speed, in any configuration, at any attitude. This
was my introduction to the dynamic stall.
Luckily, I was with a highly skilled pilot who had the foresight and
experience to let me find out just what one was like, all on my own. For
sure he knew I was pulling too hard entering the Loop and that I would
probably ignore the warning signs and due to my limited flying ability
I`d allow the aircraft to exceed its alpha capabilities. At the same time
I was compounding everything by flying the aircraft badly out of balance.
All this, as I discovered, equals t he perfect Dynamic Stall entry.
Imagine the newly acquired Yak being shown off to the local flying club
by a low level pass and a sharp pull up. Imagine the potential for disaster
if the Pilot has never felt the high alpha buffet or even that he ignores
it in the situation of needing to pull up quickly at the end of the runway
(or out of a dive down to it before a low level pass). And it doesn't have
to be low level to catch the inexperienced out, for example a steep turn
to the left at 220 kph with the 52 out of balance and overpulling on the
stick could soon flick roll you to the right into an immediate spin. Try
that at 1000 feet and it could mean trouble too.
Hence the reason for every Yak Pilot to train this manoeuvre with an
experienced Instructor on type who can not only show you how to recover
from a dynamic stall, but with whom you can explore, step by step, the
incipient stages and learn how to identify the warning signs before you
go too far.
Now what has Jack got to do with Dynamic Stalls you may think? Simply
that Mad Jack was convinced that he was missing out on some good fun by
not having practised his dynamic stalls and insisted that Sergei did some
with him too. Quite predictably Jack loved them and then went on to fly
the single seat Yak 55 later stage Smolensk. Under Russian Rules, he wouldn't
have been allowed his freedom in this wonderful tail dragger unless he
could demonstrate his ability to recover safely from the dynamic stall
in every attitude. Besides, I like telling the story about Jack and the