251 – Flying the F-16 Viper

(average: 4.76)

Guest: Jan Stahl    Host: Markus Voelter    Shownoter: Thomas Machowinski

As part of my US trip 2017 I visited Nellis AFB, where LtCol Jan Stahl flies the F-16 for the 64th Aggressor Squadron. We spent a day around, in and under the F-16. The episode contains five parts. A brief introduction to the F-16 and its development, a discussion about flying it, a walkaround, a look at all the knobs, switches and displays in the cockpit as well as a detailed discussion on the HOTAS system that forms the backbone of the pilot’s interaction with the avionics.

For our discussion on the HOTAS system, please refer to this Google search with pictures of the throttle and stick.



Introduction to the F-16 by Markus


F16 in the Wikipedia | F16 at af.mil | Aerial view | Lightweight fighter program in the early 70s | first flight 1974 | first military fly by wire system | first airplane that required active regulation (aerodynamically unstable design) | first side stick controller | hand on throttle and stick (HOTAS) | reclined seat (30°) | frameless canopy (fighter-bomber - air-to-air air-to-ground)  | several improvements over the years (Versions: A/B - C/D - E/F - N - XL)  | is used by 25 countries | around 4500 pcs are produced | production continues

Theory with Jan


Nellis Airbase, Nevada | Reserve Unit as manpower borrower | F-16 is single engine single seat | minimum training is needed | landing gear is narrow and bounces back | total front view on ground | Head Up Display (HUD) | The HUD uses 3 master modes: | navigation | air2air (A-A) | air2ground (A-G) | Helmet mounted sight display | joint helmet mounted cueing system | flight control computer system (flcs) | the f16 is a aerodynamically unstable plane | one engine | roll at power change interaction (engine failure - engine restart procedures)  | Engine maintenance | seat reclined | there is no cockpit canopy bow | view of pilot in canopy | some typical maneuvers: | takeoff with afterburner | landing with angle of attack around 11-13 degrees | AOA | speed brakes | „how much rudder“ | winds above 35 knots are not good for ejection seat | avionics and main aircraft systems (very easy to learn - switchology)  | main sensors available: | primary: radar | radar warning reciever | RWR | infrared sensors from weapons (eg. aim 9) | AIM 9 Sidewinder | main systems: | electrics | two batterys: primary and standby | one generator | one epu external power unit | hydraulics | two similar systems: System A (main) <-> System B (secondary) | fuel | two internal and external tanks | completely automated center of gravity control | COG | reservoir tanks | kinds of missions and comparison to other fighters | Jan flew the F-15 before | F-15 | tactics manuals | fly by wire controls | available g are limited e.g. by g limits of stores



Engine control panel | crew chief starts the Engine from here | video recorder panel | air intake | different sizes in different versions | variable intake vanes | Nose | AOA sensors | pitot tube | the fuselage has a small diameter compared to other jets —> smaller, more basic radar | antenna | Fuselage right side | emergency power unit (runs on ram air or hydrazine) | about 15 min time on hydrazine | gear bay | delta p indicators | right wing | leading edge of the wings are movable | controlled by | outboard stations | AIM9 infrared seeker | the AIM9 seeker is cooled by cryogenic Argon | leading edge wing | flaps are mechanically connected to the gear | Flaps | back end of the plane | radar warning receiver | missile approach receiver | variable nozzle | five spray rings for afterburner | hook for resting cables (for emergency cases) | F16 lands with a hook | (Engine and intake covers are being installed) | engine start bottles



Cockpit | the stick has no force feedback | a walk thru the cockpit from left to right: | flight control system panel | trim panel | iff control panel | fuel control panel | external / lighting panel | electrical panel | jet fuel starter | radio control panel | aoq2-13 countermeasures / jammers | gear handles / hook switch / landing light / break channels | master arm panel | radar warning receiver panel | left multi function display | upfront control panel | navigation / data entry display | head up display | main engine indicators | compass | fuel indicator | caution and warning panel | LOX for breathing | cabin altimeter | HUD controls | hardpoint power control | internal lighting / environmental controls / oxygen regulator | master avionics controls | ejection seat / emergency oxygen bootle

Hands on throttle and stick


HOTAS | early attempts in the 60s | today integration with other systems (voice recognition) | about 15 switches for more than 100 functions | „there is an ellbow switch in the F15“ | HOTAS keeps eyes out of the cockpit | multi function display layout | two colored multi function display | several display modes can be programmed: | e.g. radar mode | tactical model | targeting pod | stores management system | MFD mode configurations can be programed prior to the mission and stored in the data transfer cartridge | HOTAS switchology | three main switches on the stick (thumb) | stick switches | target management switch (TMS) | display management switch (DMS) | countermeasures management switch (CMS) | one switch on the throttle (thumb) | throttle switches | z-axis switch like a trackball (thumb) | elevation wheel (index finger) | DMS actions: | left-right: scroll thru MFD modes | aft: sensor of interest (SOI) | TMS actions: | select or deselect a target | forward: select target (radar goes to single target lock) | backwards: deselect target (radar breaks target lock) | same combinations for different sensors | CMS actions: | jamming pod modes | chaff / flare dispense | Chaff | Flare

Closing part with Markus


„it only took 35 years from liking the plane to getting in touch with one“