Frank Swinkels joined the RNlAF in August 1978 and received his initial pilot training on the SAAB 91D Safir (15 hrs.) of the State Flying School (RLS) at Eelde Airport (EHGG), Groningen, NL. He was one of first ten Dutch pilots to go through UPT at Sheppard AFB (KSPS), Whichita Falls, Tx. At that time, the course was an all-German fighter pilot training program. Class 80-03 started in April 1979 and graduated in May 1980, during which period Frank accumulated 130 hrs. on the awesome T-37 and another 140 hrs. on the "white USAF sportscar", the T-38.
Back in The Netherlands, he flew the NF-5A/B out of Twenthe AB (EHTW), Enschede, NL. This Theatre and Operational Conversion Course (TOCC) and the following Advanced Operational Course (AOC) lasted for a year and a half. At 313 and 315 Sqns, 190 hrs. on the NF-5A (the Dutch F-5 variant) were flown. Then things started to get really good: it was off to Leeuwarden AB (EHLW), Leeuwarden, NL for converting on to the then brandnew F-16A/B. Most machines were block 1's with the first block 5's just coming off the line. The Viper was the machine from early 1982 till May 1989. His first assignment was 322 Sqn, a dual-role unit (both Air Defence an Moving Mud). Over the years he was selected to attend several courses: one highlight was the Tactical Leadership Program (TLP) at (then) Jever AB (EDNJ), Jever, Germany. The other one was the Fighter Weapons Instructor Training (FWIT - the EPAF-equivalent of the various USAF/N/MC Fighter Weapons Schools) were he had great times with a.o. Jan Lemmens. Later on, he was fortunate to act as an instructor during several FWITs as well as during the all-Dutch version: DWIC. We leave it to your imagination what this acronym stands for...
The last year he was assigned to Leeuwarden's 323 Sqn as a flight instructor. The 1000th Viper-Hour happened in October 1986 (#J-227). The final score on that horrible 19 May 1989 was 1500 hours on the Electric Jet. Ever since he has been a genuine Transport Puke he joined KLM and after 2,5 years on the 737, Frank went on to bigger and better things: the 747-400 which he has been "flying" and instructing on since early 1992.
F-16.net: First of all, would it be possible to explain the origin of your callsign?
Capt. Swinkels: I wish there was a good story. I got it in Sheppard from my friend Job van Heeswijk: I reminded him of a boy in his school that was named "Stinky". But I will admit to doing everything humanly possible to deserve and keep up that name I am so proud of.
F-16.net: Your first assignment was 322 Sqn - a dual-role unit. Which mission profiles did you enjoy most while flying the F-16?
Capt. Swinkels: No doubt about that: AIR DEFENCE. It is absolutely the most challenging artform there is to be practised when airborne. To do it well, it requires skill, determination, experience and a good piece of equipment. One of the factors contributing to it being my favourite, is the fact that you are always fighting someone else. The unpredictability of that requires you to always be at your best when facing an opponent. If not, you're probably gonna get shot REAL soon. The purest form: 1v1 (F-16.net note: 1 Versus 1) with the emphasis on BFM, is where it really boils down to flying skills. Multi-bogey scenarios (e.g. protecting a mudmover force at low altitude) are equally challenging but require much more tactical considerations. In these scenarios you most often try to avoid getting entangled in BFM/Turning Fights. You try to cheat and play it as cheap and mean as possible: if you can shoot without you ever having been seen, you've done well. Still, the situation may require you to do a lot of "turnin' an' burnin'". You may very well end up again in a "basic" 1v1! In short: SINGLE SEAT, SINGLE ENGINE AIR DEFENCE FOREVER!
F-16.net: What was your most memorable flight in the Viper?
Capt. Swinkels: Of course there are many, many great rides I remember. I would like to share with you, however, an experience in which I was impressed in another than your-average-way. During this particular flight I more than impressed myself; man, did I f*k up! It all happened in the early 80's during a practice-scramble with Leeuwarden's QRA (F-16.net note: Quick Reaction Alert). At that time two armed F-16s were all prepared to get airborne pretty darn fast in order to counter any threat from where-the-sun-rises (or identify some bonehead lost over the North Sea in his Cessna 172). When we got airborne and with no simulated threats around, my flightlead decided that we should go and do some 1v1 intercepts. In order to save some gas and get as many intercepts as possible, we decided to refrain from using any AB (afterburner). And boy, do you lose energy fast without Pratt and Whitney's blowtorch!
Now I must tell you something about the "small-tailed" F-16A/B (no big tails around at that time). We were told that, when flying a so-called CAT I configuration, you could only "depart" the airplane. This meant lose control only temporarily, during which the Flight Control Computer would take over and limit your AOA and give you recovering/anti-spin control inputs. Thanks to this Fly-By-Wire feature this would be difficult anyway but it would be impossible to spin this airplane. At that time a "departure test flying program" was being conducted at Edwards AFB. These test pilots would take an F-16 up to about 40.000 ft., induce a fuel imbalance and then do all sorts of crazy things with it in order to get it departed/out off control. The airplane would allways(!) self-recover. (Early-time Vipernauts probably still remember a weird simulator program which was a result of these flighttests.)
We were flying CAT I airplanes (Centerline Tank and AIM-9N-3's on stations 1,2,8 and 9). As I was going up after my buddy in order to get a tone for a Fox 2, my speed RAPIDLY decreased. I was still pointing straight up when the HUD speed snapped to zero. No problem yet: just get some nosetravel going, pull your nose towards the nearest horizon and you'll fly out off it. However, as I reached the inverted position with the nose approaching the horizon, the nosetravel stopped. A strange shudder went through the plane and suddenly, the nose violently yawed to the right. "What the...!" This I recognized from my T-37 days: I was stabilized in a spin and an inverted one at that. After applying the spin-recovery procedure in which you apply rudder to stop the yaw and use the infamous Manual Pitch Override switch (you override the computer in the pitch axis to break the stall using a rocking motion), the airplane easily recovered. The top of this maneuvre was at 17,000 ft and after a gentle pull-out, I was straight and level again at 11,000 ft. We RTB-ed.
So, what happened? Obviously, I did something very wrong and flew the F-16 well "out of the envelope" and had to revert to my own skills to "haul it back in". There simply wasn't any airflow over the wings left. The computer did all the correct recovery inputs, but without the airflow, control surfaces just are no good. This story amazed everybody who, at that time, heard about it: the F-16 could be made to spin. By the way, the shot on my lead was good!
F-16.net: You were both an FWIT and a DWIC instructor - in what aspects is the DWIC different from the FWIT?
Capt. Swinkels: The Dutch Weapon Instructor Course is identical to it's EPAF-equivalent, the Fighter Weapons Instructor Training (FWIT). It is not unlike the US Fighter Weapon Schools, however only F-16s are involved. The DWIC takes place in the years when no FWIT is on. It comprises two parts: Air Defence and Air to Ground. Both parts are made up of (a lot of) academics and actual flying. The AD flying starts off with 1v1 BFM whereas the last rides of the program are multi-bogey Dissimilar Air Combat Training scenarios. Munition delivery includes shooting the Vulcan cannon on an aerial target and the launching of AIM-9's. The AG flying includes many sorties to an air-to-ground range for a lot of munition deliveries (bombs, rockets, missiles and guns). Remember: the trainees not only are required to be able to fly these missions, they also/especially have to be able to teach all this to others. Both the FWIT and DWIC are usually put together and run by part-time FWIT/DWIC IPs. Guest IPs are always present from e.g. the USAF/USN/USMC FWSs or the ISDF. During the 80's a very welcome guest for a couple of years was Joe Bill Dryden, the late Viper testpilot.
F-16.net: Do you have particulary fond memories of a specific TLP/FWIT/DWIC course?
Capt. Swinkels: As a student I have had the opportunity to attend a TLP during the mid-80's. The weather during this (mainly flying) course was in general so bad that we only flew the first four missions of the course (normally about 15 rides of which the last ones are outrageously challenging scenarios). After we had received all available briefings and looked at all videotapes around, we got real good at northern-German drinking games and all sorts of other non-flying related activities. Can't seem to recollect what it was all about, though... :-)
F-16.net: What was your favourite Sqn?
Capt. Swinkels: My favorite unit is, of course, 322 Sqn. That's where I grew up as a pilot and learned all there was to know about GD's Fighting Falcon. That's where I went on weeklong deployments to Guethersloh to fight crazy brits flying their Harriers at rooftop level in the North German Plains. Or to Decimomannu to fight whoever was available, being it German F-4F's, Aggressor F-5E's or Bitburg F-15C's. Or fly around Low Fly Area 1 and get involved in an all-NATO Friday afternoon furball named "the Battle of Peheim". Or spend Thursdaynights at Beauvechain AB/downtown Leuven which was especially advantageous for improving our relationship with F-16.net/350 Sqn. pilots and the Belgian people in general. I must add that the relationship with that other outfit at Leeuwarden was something special. On-base: 100% rivalry but off-base/after hours, well, not bad.
F-16.net: What's the worst joke you ever played on one of your fellow pilots (or the other way around of course)?
Capt. Swinkels: One of my bachelor squadron buddies had gone off to ski in the French Alps and came back with incredible stories. A.o. he kept on telling about this girl Mary who he apparently spend a lot of time with. After a week of listening to his war-stories, we decided something had to be done. One of the pilots on our sister squadron (323) spoke French fluently since he had lived there for years as a young boy. We got him involved in the act and so our Casanova got a call while pulling Ops. To his utter disbelief and horror he had this guy on the phone who claimed he was Mary's husband and was coming over to Holland to "meet" him. Especially when this "Frenchy" started getting into details, Don Juan was convinced he was in real trouble: obviously Mary had told him all... We didn't tell him it was all a hoax till later that afternoon at the bar. We all had a good laugh about it and we never heard about Mary again.
F-16.net: Any favourite F-16?
Capt. Swinkels: My favorite plane was #78-0221 (#J-221). It carried my name during my time at 322 Sqn. #J-221, with its crewchief MSgt. Peter Mispelblom-Beyer, was the first A model assigned to the first operational Dutch F-16 unit, 322. It was also the first airframe to accumulate 1000 and 2000 hours and was always ready to go. I was told that it has done its time in Tucson and is nowadays flying at Twenthe.
F-16.net: Thanks for the interview!
- Capt. Swinkels was interviewed online by Stefaan Vanhastel -