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From: Mary Shafer <>
Subject: Re: Space Wimp?? :)
Date: 23 May 2000 10:43:53 -0700

Talking about rough rides, Bill Dana or Milt Thompson always said that
the X-15 was the only airplane they'd ever flown where the pilot liked
to hear the engine quit.  I don't think that was nearly as rough as
the Shuttle launch is, although the longitudinal acceleration was
somewhat greater than that of the Shuttle launch.

One of them, Bill, I think, on his first flight wasn't prepared for
the weightless portion after engine shutdown and his deck of flight
cards escaped and floated all over the cockpit.  He managed to
retrieve every sheet, but he got them back a little out of order and
ended up having to flick through the pack to get through the flight

Incidentally, I think the general feeling among test pilots and
astronauts, probably all pilots, is that you'd have to be a real fool
not to feel some fear in difficult situations.  If you aren't
frightened, you probably don't really know what's going on, as it
were.  A lot of their training, actually extending the training for
military pilots, is designed to teach them how to keep going,
controlling the fear and doing the right things in response.  That bit
in "The Right Stuff" about test pilots falling out of the sky while
calmly announcing "I've tried A and I'm trying B.  That didn't work,
either, so I'll try C" until they either eject or hit the ground is
pretty true.  I was just listening to the tape of the X-31 accident
and Karl starts to make one such remark, I think about changing FCS
modes, followed almost immediately by Dana, the chase pilot,
announcing that "NASA1, we have an ejection".  Considering how
unstable that airplane was, lightweight, he hung around for a long
time if he was able to try anything.

I have a friend who flies F-18s for the Navy and he just wrote about
coming aboard the carrier in the dark, with the ACLS (Automatic or
Automated Carrier Landing System) and the other ILS-like system down,
nothing but tacan, in a thunderstorm.  He's leaving the Navy in
September and says he won't miss landings like that one bit.  That's
his way of saying they scare the socks off him, of course.

Mary Shafer Of course I don't speak for NASA
Senior Handling Qualities Research Engineer
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA
For non-aerospace mail, use please

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