The Cast


Bob 'Mongo' McCurty

As usual when I describe a new form of FRP, I'm going to have to be creative in describing the experience. A play script seems necessary this time around. The cast of characters are...

Bob "Mongo" McCurty. Safety pilot of the lead plane. He's a former Marine attack plane pilot, who flew A4s and A7s among other aircraft before joining Sky Warriors. According to Grumpy, he is a "typical dumb Marine."

Bob "Dead Meat" Fink. A typical NPC strawman. His function is to get shot down by the player character hero, yours truly. Alas, he had delusions of grandeur, based purely on having paid as much money as I for taking part in this adventure. He actually though he was the hero, and tried to attack me!

Jeff "Grumpy" Kanarich. One of Disney's Seven Dwarves. Flew an A10 for the Air Force during Desert Storm, and various other unimportant aircraft. (According to Mongo, any plane flown by the Air Force but not the Marines is an unimportant aircraft.) Sky Warriors employee and safety pilot for the Hero of the day...

Voice Bob "Dead Eye" Butler. Unfortunately, Dead Eye came under a bad case of split personality on this trip. I had the severe misfortune of having studied air to air combat, but had never flown an aircraft before. Also, I hadn't checked my mailbox the day before the flight, and thus did not read Sky Warrior's pamphlet on how to shoot down other T34s. As a result, I went in trying to combine assorted conflicting bits of advice from several different sources. Thus, the Bob Butler Flight by Committee Committee was formed...

Hellcats. This is a nice flight simulator for WW II Pacific Front air combat, written by Graphic Simulations. The Hellcats aspect of my persona is an excellent stick and rudder man, assuming gravity doesn't do anything strange, and the control stick doesn't fight back. The Hellcat persona's tactics are also flawed by the fact that the Hellcat can out turn all simulated opponents. All one has to do to win in Hellcats is turn real hard inside any bandits. Alas, the two T34s flown by Sky Warriors are identical...

Sky Warriors. Before we took off, we were briefed in one defensive maneuver, the hard turn, and one offensive maneuver, the High Yo Yo. Before the free form dogfight we practiced said maneuvers, and took some target practice at each other. Interestingly enough, the High Yo Yo is the proper offensive counter to the hard turn, which is the most basic defensive maneuver. The result is "Fixed Script Gaming," as the offensive and defensive aircraft take turns executing the only moves they know.

(As regular readers of the The Wild Hunt well know, I hate Fixed Scripts. The objective of any creative gamer is to break the Fixed Script. The real solution to the Fixed Script problem in dogfighting is to return to Sky Warriors for their second, third, and fourth lectures on shooting down other T34s. At each lecture they teach a few more maneuvers, and drill them before each set of fights. By the fourth trip, there ought to be no Fixed Script problem at all. Alas, this review was written before checking my mailbox, and reviewing the outlines for lessons two, three and four. It thus records my Hellcat persona's desire to break script.)

The Art of the Kill. This is a book and video combination published by Spectrum Holobyte as a companion to their F-16 Falcon flight simulator. It teaches the basics of one on one fighter combat using a limited number of principles. The most important ones follow. Figure out where the bad guy is going to be. Roll your aircraft until your lift vector points towards where the bandit will be. (The lift vector is an imaginary line that points straight up relative to the aircraft. It is the direction the nose of the plane will move when you pull back on the stick, which is the only direction the nose can be turned in any hurry.) After pointing the lift vector towards the bandit's future, pull back on the stick to move the nose towards the bad guy. While turning, preserve your speed. Turning bleeds off speed. The ideal turning speed of an F-16 is 450 knots, which is roughly twice the red line do not exceed speed of Sky Warrior's T-34s. To be able to turn into your opponent effectively in an F16, one has to dive or use afterburner to get as close as possible to 450 knots, or at least closer to 450 than one's opponent.

Interestingly, the Art of the Kill directly contradicts the Sky Warriors approach in a couple of areas. The Sky Warriors teach move and counter move. See a hard turn? Do a High Yo Yo. Art Kill says this approach is dated and obsolete. One must know the principles and be fluid, as in combat one does not execute precise maneuvers or scripted counters. On the other hand, Art Kill assumes the student has infinite flight simulator time available, while the Sky Warriors have two hours to brief pilots with zero flight time for real planes. This time limit does effect teaching styles.

The Art of the Kill also suggests avoiding High Yo Yos, the first offensive maneuver taught by Sky Warriors. F4 Phantoms used to do High Yo Yos. F16s are "more maneuverable" and can get on the tail of an enemy who tries a High Yo Yo. I had two great questions resulting from combining Art Kill and Sky Warriors. Why do F4s and T34s do Yo Yos, while F16s do not? Also, what is the best turning speed of the T34?

Haze Grey and Sky Blue... A T34 Mentor with the Air Force / Sky Warriors paint scheme.
Sky Warriors uses a "SW" tail letter flash, rather than "HM".
Photo from Paul Nann's Military Aviation Photo Gallery

Meanwhile, both Art Kill and Sky Warriors ignored the major lesson of Hellcats. As Pappy Boyington puts it, never fight fair. Always cheat. Know a maneuver that your plane can do, that the other plane can't. When in trouble, execute that maneuver and the bad guy is off your tail. For a Hellcat evading a Zero in my simulator, that maneuver is a continuous turn. For a Hellcat avoiding a Frank, you must climb while making the continuous turn. For a Zero avoiding a Hellcat, the maneuver is a tight loop. For a Frank evading a Hellcat, fly straight and level. The Frank is a faster plane. For a T34 evading a T34, the important breakout maneuver is determined by...

Stomach. This is the most important organ in the human body when a novice attempts dogfighting. It's function is to decide whether breakfast should remain inside the pilot, or whether it should be distributed through out the T34's cockpit. (Well, other pilots have fewer troubles with their stomach, and might instead have grey out problems as their blood is pulled from their brains by G force. Other pilots are just too timid on their first flight to bank the plane 80 degrees and go for three or four G turns. Some have none of these problems, so the aircraft is the performance limit. My limit, however, was the gut.) Stomach is thus the arch rival of Hellcats. If Dead Eye's stomach is stronger than Dead Meat's stomach, the Hellcat persona's tight turn tactics work perfectly. If on the other hand Dead Eye's stomach allows Dead Meat's plane to turn tighter, sing doom and play taps.

While Stomach is the major player among the Dead Eye Committee's organs, minor bit parts are played by Hands, Feet, Eyes, Voice, and Brains. In the following dialogue, only Mongo, Grumpy and Voice are speaking aloud. The other members of the Flight Committee are holding an intense but silent inner debate. We pick up the action about a minute into the first dogfight. Dead Meat is (alas) on Dead Eye's tail...



Leaving Fulton County's Charley Brown Field