Joe Lee Burns wrote in a February 2, 1012, email message:
A colleague who is F22 pilot for the Virginia ANG had honor of flying a Phantom at Eglin. He flew the aircraft we had at the reunion. Here is the F-22 pilot’s thoughts on flying the F-4:
I flew your jet a couple days ago (see attached). I had a little trouble getting the engines started, so I climbed out and shoveled some more coal in the back; after that she fired right up. Ground ops were uneventful, although I couldn’t figure out why the cockpit smelled like body odor, Jack Daniels and cigars…and that was BEFORE I got in it! By the way, what’s with the no slip crap on top of the intakes, it’s like you have permanent icing conditions due to that spray on rhino truck bed liner on top of the aircraft. It’s no wonder you needed so much coal (I mean thrust) to get airborne.
Take off scared the sh*t out of me. I lit the burners at brick one and 2 miles and 45 minutes later we were ready to rotate. After barely clearing the tree tops, the gear came up and I climbed away at a VERY impressive 2 degrees nose high. In case you don’t remember, “Trim” is your friend in the F-4 (pretty sure it’s also a good friend on the ground too). Once I got her up to speed and a moderate altitude, we were ready for the G-Ex. Two G-turn’s later and I’m sinking like a rock…the F-4’s energy seems to bleed like Holyfield’s ear in the Tyson fight! After the G-Ex it was time to do a little Advanced Handling Characteristics (AHC) and by “advanced handling” I mean the same crap the Wright Brothers were doing back in 1903…just trying to keep it airborne.
The jet flies much like my old man’s station wagon used to drive…You turn the wheel (push the stick) a few inches and nothing happens, then all of a sudden the steering kicks in, inertia takes over, and all HELL breaks loose! You’re pretty much along for the ride at that point and only gravity has a real say in your lift vector placement. “Checking 6” was really quite easy…. because you CAN’T! Scratch that off the list of “Sh*t I need to do to keep myself alive in combat today”. Breathing, however, was surprisingly easy in the F-4 when compared to that of the F-22 (thank you Lockheed)…LOX works, who knew!
I think I may have burned my legs a bit from the steam pouring out from behind the gauges. Where are my 6 mini-flat screen TV’s, I’m lost without my HD jet displays (editors note: actually, I’m an analog guy stuck in a digital world too…I really do like the “steam driven” gauges). After the AHC, I decided to take her up high and do a supersonic MACH run, and by “high” I mean “where never lark nor even eagle flew”; but not much higher, a foot or two maybe. I mean, we weren’t up there high-fiving Jesus like we do in the Raptor, but it was respectable. It only took me the width of the Gulf of Mexico to get the thing turned around while above the Mach. After the Mach run we dropped to the deck and did 600 kts at 500’; a ratllin’ and shakin’ we will go…. I though all the rivets were going to pop out. Reference previous station wagon analogy! Very quickly we were out of gas and headed home.
As I brought the jet up initial, I couldn’t help but think that the boys who took this thing into combat had to have some pretty big brass you know whats!
My first F-4 landing was a little rough; sub-standard really by Air Force measure… but apparently “best seen to date” according to the Navy guys. Did you know that there’s no such thing as an aerobrake in the F-4? As soon as the main gear touches down, the nose comes slamming down to the runway with all the force of a meteor hitting the earth….I guess the F-4 aerobrake technique is to dissipate energy via denting the runway.
Despite an apparently “decent” landing, stopping was a whole different problem. I reached down and pulled the handle to deploy the drogue chute…at which point a large solid mass of canvas, 550 cord, metal weights and cables fell out and began bouncing down the runway; chasing me like a lost puppy and FOD’ing out the whole runway. Perfect. I mashed down on the breaks and I’m pretty sure at this point the jet just started laughing at me. Why didn’t you warn me that I needed a shuttle landing strip to get this damn thing stopped?
All kidding aside, VERY COOL jet! Must have been a kick to fly back when you were in Vietnam! Just kidding!
Hilarious story. The button on top of the drag chute handle jettisons the drag chute. Not the first time it was inadvertently pressed.
Hey, everyone who flew the Rhino knows it’s was a man’s airplane. Don’t think we all don’t envy you for flying the F-22, but it was a privilege to honk that Phantom around. It was forgiving to a point, then watch out. None of the computer babysitters we have today.