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F-16 test pilots hit the 'road' to help train USAFE pilots

May 26, 2015 (by Kenji Thuloweit) - Two F-16 test pilots from the 416th Flight Test Squadron recently returned from a "roadshow" to Europe where they provided High Angle of Attack academics to U.S. Air Forces in Europe pilots.

Maj. Raven LeClair, 416th FLTS assistant director of operations, and Capt. Michael Pacini, 416th FLTS F-16 test pilot, went on the roadshow, which is a generic term for traveling to another unit to provide some type of training or academics.

The purpose of this roadshow was to provide USAFE F-16 pilots at Aviano Air Base, Italy, and Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, specific training to learn how to avoid departing (from controlled flight) the F-16.

One example of a High AOA maneuver is when a pilot attempts to pursue an adversary vertically when their airspeed is insufficient.

"We call this maneuver a 'Tactical Pitch Rate Departure,''' said LeClair. "This maneuver results in an Angle of Attack overshoot beyond the flight control computer's built-in protection 'limiters' and the jet may not respond to pilot commands as it attempts to recover itself. The jet may not have the control effectiveness to recover and may stagnate in a deep stall and will fall in a flat-attitude, out-of-control situation."

LeClair then said the pilot must take additional action to pitch rock the jet out of this stagnation point, similar to rocking a car out of a ditch.

"We provided academics to 12 F-16 pilots at Aviano and to 23 pilots at Spangdahlem," said Pacini. "Of those 23 pilots at Spangdahlem, we flew with seven of them."

The two pilots conducted academic sessions, and if able, a flight in the two-seat F-16D with the upgrading pilot in the front cockpit and either Pacini or LeClair in the backseat. Pacini said the pilots were shown how to avoid departures, building on what they were taught in academics. The academics covered some foundational principles of flight and what causes spins and deep stalls.

"We provided real-world examples of F-16 departures (deep stalls and spins) and provided a detailed explanation of how the F-16 flight controls work and how to avoid departures. We then intentionally spin and stall the F-16 and teach them how to effectively recover the jet," said Pacini.

The Air Force and Air National Guard have lost five F-16s since 1995 due to departure/deep stall. This training helps F-16 pilots prevent inadvertent departures and increases awareness of F-16 capabilities and limitations in the High AOA regime.

The 416th FLTS does the High AOA mission on a continual basis and has a program run by Roger Tanner, 416th FLTS High AOA lead instructor pilot, that has been conducted for decades to train F-16 pilots from around the world.

"We typically have two pilots per week come to Edwards to get the training here. We provide this training to active, guard, reserve, and foreign F-16 pilots from all over the world. However, we occasionally do roadshows to provide the training to a broader audience," Pacini said.

The 416th FLTS's High AOA program has been running for more than 25 years and test pilots have conducted thousands of intentional departures, and throughout the program's history, there has never been a failure to recover the aircraft from an out-of-control condition. The 416th FLTS trains all of its test pilots to be qualified to conduct this training.

"Maj. LeClair and I were just the lucky two that were picked to conduct this roadshow," Pacini said.

Courtesy of 412th Test Wing Public Affairs