Posted November, 1993

Well, it finally happened.
About 15 months ago, I posted a story about my last BFR... and how a certain RV-3 had messed around with us as I was trying to fly S-turns about a road... head on passes, swinging around to get on our tail, etc. I'd mentioned then how I might have been willing to oblige the guy, if I hadn't been flying a rented Decathlon with a CFI in the back.  It was kind of irritating having to just sit there and take it.

Well, today I got some of my own back.

Me and another Fly Baby were flying to an airport near where the previous incident took place.  I'd swung into trail behind him as he prepared to swing into the pattern of this tiny private strip.

Then the RV-3 flashed by, pulled up, and rolled.  The other 'Baby had already started to turn and descend and didn't see him.  I thought for a moment, then poured on the power and broke into the bogey.  He saw that, and, with seeming delight, curved back towards me.

It was 180 HP Lyc against 85 HP Continental.  It was fixed-pitched against constant speed.  Wire bracing against cantilever wings.  Aluminum against wood.  An active airline pilot with a reputation of "bouncing"  all comers against a 500-hour private pilot who'd never dogfought before.

In the grand and glorious tradition of air combat, I don't remember many specifics.  Only snatches, like stills from a gun-camera film.  Arching my head backward to watch the RV pass right-to-left a hundred feet overhead.  Sun glinting off a canopy.  Stunned disbelief when the 'Baby's nose kept dropping even with full-aft stick (my second inadvertant stall in 22 years!).  Breaking into the RV's diving passes to ruin his attacks.  The curve of the RV as he tried to stay on my tail... and the 'Baby's two advantages, drag & low wing loading, coming to the fore:  Kill the power, drop a wing, and haul back on the stick.  Looking for the bogey after he passes under me, unable to both slow up as fast as the 'Baby nor turn as tightly.  And the rare sight of  my nose lining up on the RV's turtledeck for a few blissful seconds.

After a few minutes (Two?  Three?  Five?  Who knows?), he finally breaks off and heads away to search for another victim.  I fly carefully for a few moments, letting the andrenaline surge die down a bit, then head to the airport where my buddy should be waiting.

Surprisingly enough, my post-event reflection has been largely negative.  I've always wanted to try air combat.  And while we never had any really close calls during this fracas, it was easy to see that the wrong reflexes could have spelled disaster.  I'm still glad I did it... just because I always *wanted* to do it.  Maybe I'd have felt differently if our airplanes had been more closely matched.  Maybe one of the homogenized "Air Combat" outfits with ex-military aircraft and safety pilots and safety procedures would be more my style.

Then again, maybe that's it.  Perhaps my experience was *too* much like real air combat.  The surprise attack.  The feeling of being outclassed.  The lack of rules; no holds barred.  The fact that sometimes *you* end up as a flag painted on the other guy's airplane.

Yes, I'm glad I did it.  But I don't think I want to do it again....

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