My First Lesson in a CF-18 Hornet
Flight Lesson in a CF-18
Captain Erick O’Connor of Canadian Forces 409 Squadron, gives LearnToFly.ca Editor, Geoff McKay, his first lesson in the cockpit of a CF-18 Hornet Fighter Jet. The CF-18 is the primary front-line fighter in Canada, and it is used every day to protect the sovereignty of the country.
CF-18 Demonstration Team
The Canadian Forces CF-18 Demonstration Team was in Toronto for the Canadian International Air Show (CIAS) (a.k.a. CNE Air Show) for the 2011 Labour Day weekend. That’s when Geoff McKay met up with Captain Erick O’Connor for a tour of the CF-18 Hornet, and an introductory lesson in the cockpit of the Hornet. The CF-18 Hornet is an absolutely amazing jet.
When you first climb in the cockpit, you quickly realize the CF-18 is more like a computer with wings and a pair of oversized jet engines. And, it’s fast. Very Fast. The CF-18 travels at twice the speed of sound, or 2,400 km/h. (1,600 mph).
The on-board computer limits the g-forces during flight manoeuvres to 7.5 +g’s and 3 -g’s. The combined speed and g-forces operating envelope provides for exceptional high speed manoeuvrability, including full aerobatic capabilities. During Captain Erick O’Connor’s demonstration flights over Toronto, he showed great restraint by keeping the CF-18′s flying speed below the speed of sound to ensure he did not break the sound barrier over the crowds at the CNE.
Video: Learn To Fly a CF-18 Hornet Fighter Jet!
CF-18 Hornet Flight Lesson with Captain Erick O’Connor of 409 Squadron
The Canadian Forces CF-18 Hornet is filled with amazing onboard technology including some of the most advanced flight control systems and some of the most sophisticated weapons technologies. The CF-18 is all Fly-By-Wire (FBW). In a conventional aircraft, the flight controls are manually controlled using pulleys and cables. However, with FBW, the flight controls are converted to electronic signals. These signals are then transmitted by wires (hence the “Fly-By-Wire” terminology) to the flight control computers. These onboard computers translate the inputs to determine movements of actuators managing each flight control surface.
The FBW system greatly enhances performance, stability, and manoeuvrability. With all the advanced technology onboard, Captain Erick describes himself as “just a contributor to the computer”. (@ 6:40 in the video above) But, Erick is just being modest. Don’t be fooled… Captain Erick is an astounding pilot!
From this picture, you can see the incredible takeoff climb angle, but he then performs a “Dirty Roll” within milliseconds of being airborne. The CF-18 rolls over and continues through 360 degrees of roll until the jet is “rubber side down” once again.
During the roll, the landing gear is down, flaps are lowered, and everything is hanging out. (i.e. the aircraft configuration is “Dirty”. In a ”Clean” configuration, the gear and flaps would be retracted)
You have to see this INSANE takeoff to believe it. (@ 0:07 in the video above, and also @ 7:04 in the video)
The CF-18 flown by Captain Erick dazzles audiences all over North America. Captain Erick performs astonishing aerobatics in the CF-18 Hornet including looping manoeuvres, rolling manoeuvres, High-G 360 turns (@ 5:25 in the video above), inverted flight, vertical climbs, hesitation rolls, and his signature “Dirty Roll” on takeoff.
Ripping the Air
The CF-18 Hornet pictured here is ripping through the air, and strong vortices are spawning that generate very turbulent air currents over the wings, and at the wing tips. Despite this ridiculously high angle of attack, the Hornet is still able to generate aerodynamic lift and rocket through the air.
White Vapour – Not Smoke
That’s White Vapour, or mist you see swirling around the jet. It may look like smoke, but it’s moisture in the air condensing into cloud. The extremely high angle of attack during this high g pull-up causes powerful vortices to form around the edge of the CF-18 aircraft.
Bernoulli’s principle states that for any increase in speed of a fluid (or in this case the air), there occurs simultaneously a decrease in pressure. As the air rushes over the wing, and around surfaces such as the leading edge of the wing, the wing tips, and the missile shaped fuselage, it is diverted around the contour or shape of the object. The air particles (or parcel of air), must increase in velocity to travel a farther distance than its counterpart air parcel on the other side of the obstruction. When the air particles meet together again, the parcel of air that has been re-routed around the surface has travelled a longer distance in the same amount of time. To do this, it had to increase in velocity or speed. With the increase of velocity, there is an associated drop in pressure. With the drop in pressure, there is a resulting drop in air temperature.
The vortices and resultant turbulent air, and re-directed air parcels have a large drop in pressure. Proving Bernoulli’s Principle, this results in an accompanying temperature drop in the air parcels. The air is instantly cooled, and the amount of moisture that could previously be held in the air drops suddenly. The previously warmer air could hold a higher percentage of water particles. However, the now cooler air can no longer hold all the moisture, and it instantly condenses into water vapour or mist.
With the cooler air, the severe drop in temperature is sufficient to condense the normally invisible air into water causing the white “vapour” to be seen. Typically, wing tip vortices and other air disruption would not be visible, but with the extremely high velocity of the CF-18′s manoeuvre, and the pressure drop of air parcels, the moisture in the air condenses and the smoke like white “vapour” (or cloud) suddenly appears.
The science is amazing, but seeing this happen around the CF-18 Hornet as it is ripping through the air is truly spectacular!
McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet
The CF-18 Hornet is based on the American McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet. The 2011 CF-18 Demonstration Pilot, Captain Erick O’Connor is from 409 Squadron of the Canadian Forces located in Cold Lake, Alberta. The CF-18 Demonstration Jet is maintained from two Air Force Wings.
3 Wing CFB Bagotville, Quebec
No. 425 Alouette Tactical Fighter Squadron
Supports CF-18 performances in Eastern Canada.
4 Wing CFB Cold Lake, Alberta
No. 409 Nighthawks Tactical Fighter Squadron
No. 410 Cougars Tactical Fighter (Operational Training) Squadron
Supports CF-18 performances in Western Canada.
Painted on the bottom side of any Canadian Forces CF-18 Hornet is a “Fake Canopy”. (@ 3:09 in the video above) The outline of the canopy is painted in a black paint to create the illusion of the cockpit canopy on the grey underside. From a distance this looks remarkably like the real canopy on the reverse side. The strategy is to confuse the enemy with regard to the orientation of the aircraft, to give the Canadian pilots a slight advantage over enemy pilots and enemy ground personnel.
Pictured here, you see a pair of CF-18 Hornet Fighter Jets. The CF-18 in the back has the typical, mono colour, military grey paint scheme. In the front, however, we see the custom painted 2011 CF-18 Demonstration Jet.
The 2011 CF-18 Demonstration Team Jet has been specially painted to commemorate military families. The jet is adorned with a brilliant dorsal and tail artwork. The freehand airbrush and paint gun murals are beautifully painted in reds and blues.
This special design is accentuated by the iconic military yellow ribbon. This swirling yellow ribbon design loops around the cockpit, and extends down the jet’s back and wraps the twin tails.
Supporting Military Families
Painted on the red tail, you see a family. (@ 5:46 in the video above) The family theme is a big part of the CF-18 Demonstration Team’s work. The tail flash also displays the three elements of the Canadian Forces including the Air Force, Navy and Army. (@ 5:56 in the video above)
For the younger generation, the cockpit feels like home. A familiar looking Joystick greets you instead of a traditional Yoke. The joystick control is centred, and the front panel has three, colour, digital displays surrounded by buttons.
The Joystick control includes a mouse-like interface allowing the computer user (a.k.a. Pilot), to move the “cursor” around to the different display screens to select options and controls, and cancel or select functions. (@ 1:28 in the video above)
The CF-18 Cockpit digital displays are fully customizable allowing the pilot to configure the displays for his or her personal preferences. For instance, the Targeting Pod, Radar, Horizontal Situation Indicator (HSI), and Situational Awareness System (a.k.a. “God’s Eye View”) may be moved to any digital display for optimized viewing and accessibility.
Amazingly, there can be multiple contributors where information and data from multiple, external sources (i.e. other aircraft in the formation) can automatically transmit critical data (such as radar activity) directly to the CF-18 screens. The pilot now has data augmented from multiple sources and integrated into his onboard display in the cockpit.
The CF-18 Hornet has the standard Heads Up Display (HUD) mounted in the pilot’s line of sight above the cockpit panel. But, the CF-18 is also equipped with JHMCS – Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System.
Pictured here, Captain Erick O’Connor is seen wearing the Helmet and Goggles that make up the JHMCS system. Those are not large sunglasses, but an incredible and sophisticated piece of technology. JHMCS enables the pilot to acquire targets via turning his head and looking at the target location as important cockpit information continues to be displayed before his eyes.
Developed by Boeing, the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) is a multi-role system that enhances pilot situational awareness and provides head-out control of aircraft targeting systems and sensors, accelerating the acquisition of enemy targets. (@ 3:25 in the video above)
The CF-18 Hornet is configured with both JHMCS and AIM-9X missile. This effective combination forms the High-Off-BoreSight (HOBS) system. HOBS is an airborne weapon-interception system enabling the pilot to accurately direct, or “cue” onboard weapons against enemy targets by merely pointing their heads at the target. The HOBS system guides the weapons, allowing the pilot to perform High-G flight manoeuvres during the attack.
My First Lesson
After my personal tour of the CF-18 fighter jet, and my first in-cockpit lesson, I began to realize just how advanced this amazing aircraft truly is.
Transitioning from a Cessna 172, to a CF-18 should be the next rating every daring pilot should pursue
Learn To Fly a CF-18 Hornet
Special thanks to Captain Erick O’Connor of the 409 Squadron, the 2011 CF-18 Demonstration Team, and to the CIAS for making this day possible.
It was a great opportunity for LearnToFly.ca Editor, Geoff McKay, to receive a personal cockpit lesson in one of the most advanced aircraft in the skies today.
Lessons over… It’s time for a “Dirty Roll” on take-off in the Canadian Forces CF-18 Hornet!