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Holden's Lightning Flight (wikipedia.org)
144 points by astdb 4 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 27 comments

Interesting tidbit from the first person account linked as a reference

>Some years after the incident, my hidden fears of high speed flight came to the surface and I had to spend two periods in hospital. I had not come to terms with the emotional side of the event. To return to my wife and family, after five close encounters with death, was indeed a miraculous experience, but I had not been honest with myself, to accept it as such, so I needed psychiatric help. I could recall the technicalities of the flight without any hang-ups, but was unwilling to talk about that emotional side of the ordeal until I was placed under medical drugs and to bring these emotions to the surface. That was a rewarding experience and it gave me a much better understanding of people who might need that kind of help, after similar unfortunate occurrences


I had a professor who flew the electric lightning later in his flying career (early in his overall career;). Beast of a plane.

The most he said of it was: “it was a real hot ship”

This fellow had stories for days.

The Lightning had pretty amazing performance. Capable of intercepting a U2 at 66,000 ft altitude and zoom climbing to 88,000 ft. Also the only fighter that could intercept Concorde from astern at altitude (F-15s, F-16s, F-14s, Mirages and F-104s all failed). http://www.lightning.org.uk/oct04sotm.html

It's interesting the F-12B was cancelled because CONUS was deemed "safe-enough."

Can we not now envision threats moving faster than a Concorde?

Interceptors in general were made obsolete by the time the A-12 and F-108 programs were being considered and ultimately canceled.

The first reason was ICBMs becoming the dominant form of nuclear deterrent. The A-12 was never going to be built into an interceptor that could shoot down an ICBM.

The second was the Nike Hercules program. They took the Nike surface to air missiles, enlarged them, and put a nuke on top of them. This did a reasonable job of solving the ICBM problem, and also solved any problem that would have been solved with interceptors. There were 200-300 Nike Hercules sites in the continental US, plus a non-nuclear export version that had a 1,000lb conventional payload which was deployed in many other NATO/US allied countries.

The end result is that even though there's still a need and a market for air superiority and multirole fighters, the high speed interceptor is not a role that exists in a modern military anymore. Much like the battleship for instance.

(edit: note that the fastest strategic bomber built by the Soviet Union was the mach 2.05 Tu-160, which is slow enough to be intercepted by the mach 2.5 F-15 or the mach 2.4 F-14.)

Reagan "Star Wars" 2.0 energy weapons will be the ultimate anti-ICBM, anti-air, anti-tank, and anti-personnel defenses. I can't see crewed bombers or fighters surviving much longer when lasers and UAVs make them moot.

Take two jet engines and strap them together. Now strap a pilot on top. Point it vaguely upwards and light the blue touch paper. I can still just about hear a pair of those things trying to tear their own wings off in my long term memory!

Just for a second, imagine yourself in that situation... Amazing that he was able to land safely and with only repairable damage to the plane.

It's amazing how much damage a plane can take and still be worth repairing.

During WWII, a flight of P-38 Lightnings and B-17s made an emergency landing on the Greenland ice. After being buried under almost 300 feet of ice for 50 years, one of the P-38s was pulled up and restored to full flying condition [1]

There's countless stories of old warbirds being pulled out of swamps and lakes and being flown again.

Interestingly, warbird restoration became a bit of an industry in New Zealand during the 90's, in part due to a bloke called Tim Wallis [2], who made his fortune in 60s and 70s from live deer recovery (basically grabbing wild deer from a helicopter) and later on deer farming.

He ended up crashing a Spitfire in 1996 (he also crashed a helicopter and broke his back 20 years earlier), which left him unable to walk for some time and permanently unable to fly, unlike the Spitfire which was restored over almost 20 years and is now in flying condition again.

Tragically, a few years back, he lost two sons in separate helicopter crashes a few months apart. Helicopter pilots in New Zealand don't have a long life expectancy. If you've ever seen them flying, it's no surprise [3]. There's old pilots, and there's bold pilots, but there aren't any old, bold pilots...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glacier_Girl

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Wallis

[3] https://www.nzonscreen.com/title/airborne-1980

See also the Cornfield Bomber, an F-106 Delta Dart, which is a mach 2.3 interceptor. The pilot was doing a training flight, entered a flat spin, and ejected. The pilotless, out of control aircraft proceeded to stop its spin, entered straight and level flight, and landed intact in a nearby wheat (not corn) field. The farmer called the authorities about what he should do about it- the engine was still running. The Air Force told him to simply let it run out of fuel, which it did a few hours later. The Air Force recovered the aircraft, repaired it, and returned it to service. It retired with the rest of the F-106s 10-20 years later in the mid '80s. It's on display today at Wright Patterson AFB.


https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6329703 (2 comments, 8 years ago)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7963421 (no comments, 7 years ago)

> There's countless stories of old warbirds being pulled out of swamps and lakes and being flown again.

I guess that makes certain Star Wars scenes a bit more believable.

I love that he messed up, and the brass regales him with stories too. Lesson learned, job done, clear to go...

I've heard a story about an exercise involving British and American warships where at one point ships from the two different navies collided. It was a very minor incident- no deaths or serious injuries, and relatively little damage to the ships.

The next morning the American ship that had been involved in the collision was nowhere to be found. The British admiral asked the Americans where it was, and was told that the captain had reported the collision and been ordered to return to port for an investigation.

He was shocked- earlier in his career, a ship he commanded had been involved in a similar incident. The letter he received from a senior admiral in response to it began with "Today, you became a better sailor..."

Grounding, Sinking, Fouled Prop, Collision, Dead Engine, Capsize. Make it through these six and you will be a pretty good sailor.

Maybe a few other American destroyers had already collided with cargo ships earlier that year...

Perfect metaphor of me, in any programming job ever.

(To clarify: two things make me feel the vastness that lies between my ability and expertise:

- Computer programming

- Landing an airplane (was student pilot for about 250 landings, until..

- Parenthood

- Expressing myself effectively in writing, and

- Counting the number of things that I need to improve.


- Counting the number of parentheses needed to close the s-exp.

I too like to compare myself to the most elite of "flying by the seat of my pants" examples of expertise in the record of human history. I just usually save my hubris for my performance reviews rather than shitposting on the web.

Or you could chose the more friendly interpretation of them refering to the utter unpreparedness with wich they barely manage to survive.

The article seems to potray Holden as surprisingly competent despite lack of training, and aside from the tail drag, perfectly executed.

But it was just meant as a little internet humor snark rather than a direct attack for a rather innocuous comment on a historical wikipedia link on HN.

Amusing as it is, usually piling on to self-deprecation is considered lame.

Yes, actually, this is good feedback: I can see how it might have been understood as some amazing engineering. Certainly Holden did a fantastic job getting back in one piece...

I've reached the stage in my programmer's career where I look back on stuff in horror: architecture astronautical sins, foolish arrogance, too much complexity...

Although for good programmers, hubris might be a virtue:


Thanks. For the record I meant nothing negative by it, sometimes I'm just in a mental state that's a bit more antagonistic, as I switch over from other, less professional websites ;-).

It's impressive that he had the presence of mind to land heading away from the village, knowing there was a good chance he'd run off the runway and/or crash.

I remember seeing Lightnings at the Farnborough air show, many years ago - the standard trick was a low pass along the runway just in the front of the crowds (on full afterburner), and at the end go absolutely vertical until out of sight. The noise (and the heat that would drift across the crowd afterwards) was incredible.

I hope he at least got a fast jet wings badge out of it, even if he couldn't wear it on his uniform.

This remind me of SpaceCamp movie: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceCamp

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