251 – Flying the F-16 Viper
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 Markus00:04:34
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 Jan00:19:12
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 stick02:46:35
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 Markus03:24:45
„it only took 35 years from liking the plane to getting in touch with one“
I haven’t listened yet but the pictures are great; well except for the one thing that appears to be missing…
Where’s the photo of a grinning Marcus in the front seat of the conversion trainer variant?
Didn’t happen, unfortunately :(
I think the preference in having a canopy bow or not is somewhat similar to whether you prefere glasses with or without a frame.
Loved this episode being a big F-16 fan here too.
As someone who has spent a lot of time in Falcon4 (over its whole evolution — still an amazing sim if you install the original and apply the community patches) to the point of having HOTAS and (screenless) MFDs and checklists, it was interesting to hear some additional details on the avionics, HOTAS and other systems that weren’t in that sim (or that explain why the sim behaved in certain ways that were never explained).
I hadn’t thought that the APG-68 was so poorly regarded — I know its power is limited but its range-while-scan and track-while-scan capabilities seemed on par at least on paper.
Nothing was said about the nuclear consent panel (unless I missed it). Is it gone?
There’s an interesting tool that will let you explore cockpit photos here:
And I could be wrong but I think the increased max takeoff weight in the newer blocks/variants may have to do with the conformal tanks seen in configurations like Israel’s export Viper.
Hearing the Lt. Col. talk about landing was familiar — in F4 you’d line up, then put the flightpath indicator at a certain point relative to the runway threshold at between 11-14 deg. AOA and 2.5 degree slope and then modulate the throttle to hit the desired airspeed for the distance from the runway. When you got close enough you’d cut power sharply and flare slightly (but only slightly) to settle down but not drag the brakes or nozzle.
Funny tutorial that uses F4 to answer a Quora question on flying and landing the Viper, covering the controls and HUD basics, etc:
There were some stories in the forums at the time that in real life pilots of other types would poke fun at Vipers for landing in a kind of a squat.
*Vipers in the Storm* was decent read on a Viper pilot’s career and experiences piloting an F-16 in Desert Storm, if it’s still available.
Wow, huge props to Jan for helping Markus make this episode happen!
I agree :-)
Nuclear consent panel: I could imagine that they are not in every plane —
the aggressors certainly don’t have a use for it.
Thx for the cockpit tool – nice :-)
Vipers in the Storm: I read it, good book!
I guess it is time to dust off the Cougar HOTAS and install Falcon 4.0 incl. BMS upgrade
on my PC again. Have been interested in this plane ever since. (starting with Falcon 3.0
on an Amiga 500).
Thank you for THIS episode and the other preceding 250 episodes of omegatau.
I am looking forward to the next 250 :-)
Nice CCCP sticker in “Markus’ cockpit” ;)
Excellent podcast Marcus, I came here for the “viper” episode but I’ll certainly listen to many more.
As for “Falcon 4 & all the community patches”, “Falcon BMS” is where it’s at at the moment if you’re looking for a top-notch F-16 sim. All that’s required is an old Falcon 4 c/d or some € spent on gog.com or steam and you’ll be in virtual “Viper heaven” in no time (other expenses for simming hardware may follow, so be warned ;-) BMS even works quite well on WINE / Linux.
Thanks to Jan for having you on-site and of course for all your hard work, Markus.
That one wasn’t hard work, it was pure pleasure :-)
Ich ärger mich gerade grün und blau das mein englisch nicht gut genug ist …
Erinnert mich sehr an die Flugtage früher in Ramstein…
Ja, da war ich 1988 beim letzten auch …
Absolut excellent Markus, thank you very much!
Lt. Col Jan is a great guy, I also loved the Red Flag episode!
You did a great service to us (Military) aviation nuts.
Btw, if I am not miscounted, you have half of the Teenie-Fighters through,
can we hope for a covering of the F/A-18? Maybe Swiss, Spanish or Finish ADF?
Marines are welcome tough, the Harrier Ep of you is amazing too.
Best Regards from Vienna
Yes, the F-14 and the F-18 are still missing. I tried to visit the Swiss Air Force – they declined. Will come at some point I am sure :-)
Although I cannot claim to be a F16-fan since my teens, this episode has become my favorite one. :)
I played/flew the PC sim F16 Falcon as well for a lot of hours and enjoyed its richness (as others listeners already reported here). They claim to be quite close to reality and I’m inclined to believe that.
Does anybody, by chance, know if the community version is going to be tweaked to work with 3d glasses? I’d surely then buy one and unpack the sim once more! :)
Markus, as always: many thanks for the episode!
Very good episode Markus. I really enjoyed it.
I can remember the transition from the F104 Starfighter to the F-16 Falcon very well here in the Netherlands back in the ’70.
Now our airforce is in the puchasing the F-35. I my opinion not a real beauty in terms of looks :-)
If you ever manage to get the Swiss to let you into one of their airplanes, pick he F-5! Flying aircraft for 50 years based on a 70 year design is how one becomes a rich country ;-).
Nice episode. “True statement!”
Great episode! But – is it just me or did Jan leave the impression that there’s not a lot he likes about the F-16, at least not compared to the F-15?
I’ve listened to this episode during many sessions over quite a while, so I may have lost the plot a bit, but I remember at least the first half of the episode sounding a little bit like the F-16 isn’t a significant progress and he rather prefers the F-15.
Would be happy to hear I’m wrong – it’s just such a beautiful aircraft – and it always performs one of the nicest displays at the Austrian air tatoo :-)
He certainly (also) has a sweet spot for the F-15 :-)
For me, this is among the best episodes ever. Very, very interesting topic (as always if there’s aviation) and a great guest. Even though it’s a podcast, everything is explained in a way, as if you stood directly beside a F-16.
It definitely paid of to know the F-16 and it’s Cockpit well now!
Thank you Markus for travelling to the USA for this one, and of course especially to Jan Stahl. Could listen some more hours to this …
Looking forward to the Red Flag episode.
Thanks, nice episode!
Somewhere in the beginning I think you mentioned that no F-16’s where lost due to flight control problems, or maybe more specific the computers that control them. Being an airline first officer I get to fly with retired military pilots every now and then.
One of them told me he had ejected from an F16, which had become uncontrollable after his training mission. The aircraft would be pitching and rolling violently, but he regained some control and was able to fly back from the training areas, but when he was over the northern part of the Netherlands the problems started again and became more violent to the point where he had to eject.
The investigation revealed that although the flight control computers are independent, their was one capacitor either linking essential computer elements or was common to all the computers (don’t remember) which had failed causing all the flight control computers to give errors and making the aircraft uncontrollable.
Looking for this story I came over a number of crashes with a general statement over flight controls, so I am not sure which one it was, but I think the crash mentioned here: http://www.f-16.net/aircraft-database/F-16/airframe-profile/2448/
Thanks for the clarification!
Hi. Great podcast.
The high pitch noice when the flaps/slats are extending on an airbus A320 series is comming from the PTU (power transfer unit), which is hydraulic driven.
The CRJ900 has electrical driven flaps/slats.
Great great podcast
Thanks. Yes, I was unsure what exactly the sound is. I guess it is kinda both, electrical and hydraulic :-)
OK, all of your warplane podcasts are good, but this was special, since you were actually there, walking around the plane and peeking into panels and holes. It’s absolutely fantastic that Jan took the time to show you around so much, a great service for us all listening to your podcasts. And, the jet sounds in between were great, glad you left them in!
At 2:24 the pilot react at your remarks saying that the FBW system should prevent the plane to put himself in aerodynamics trouble, he said: “you can definitely overpower the flight control” “You can definitely get yourself in trouble in a f16”.
This remarks puzzled me a bit and I made some research.
To better understand the “limitation” of the FBW i found can an explanation of the system made by the engineer who made Falcon 4 BMS. You can find in the link below a very interesting explanation on how work the FBW and some physical / aerodynamic limitation of it (and way to “get in trouble”).
Thank you, that is *very* interesting. And funny to find it in the context of a flight simulator “game”.
Ich habe es 2 mal versuchd mir den Podcaschd anzhören, leider ischd mein englisch nedd gud genug um alle Fachbegriffe z verschdehen. Ich habe als Kind den übergang von der Phandom auf die F16 in Ramschdein erlerbd, als es noch die Flugdage gab. Ich sage nur. 1 Lider Eis für 0,50 Pfennig. Eins meiner ledzen PC Sbiele war Falcon 4.0, das die F16 schon sehr gud simulierd had. Leider hadde das Programm zviele Fehler die nie behoben wurden. Es soll aber eine A10 Simulazion geben, die 120 % sein soll, das heischd, ohne Handbuch kann man nedd mal die Modoren schdarden.
Falls du es noch nedd kennschd, dann schau dir mal dieses alde Buch von Tom Clancy an : “”Fighder Wing” Eine Reise in die Weld der modernen Kambfflugzeige”
Ich meine darin gelesen z haben, das man damals vergessen had, bei der F18 Einführung den Tank anzubassen. Die Teschdmaschinen musschden wohl schnell ferdig werden und hadden nur einen brovisorischen Tank, darum müssen die heide Zusadzschdanks midschlebbe