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a flight in a dh-115 «vampire» trainer

as you may know some of the ex-«warsaw pact» countries, e.g. the soviet-union or slowakia, offer flights in modern military jet fighters. thus western cash helps them with the insane costs they have to keep those fighters in the air.

however, for those of you living in western europe and maybe having a more nostalgic inclination there is a much more comfortable as well as much cheaper way of getting into the air in a real jet fighter.


you can take a flight in a privately owned ex-swiss air force 'vampire' trainer. the aircraft is operated from 'Dole-Tavaux', a small airport about 50km  from Dijon, northern France - that is right in the heart of europe. the aircraft is piloted by Sigismond Monnet, ex-swiss af and now civilian pilot - one of the very few (young) pilots who have been trained to fly this type of aircraft.



i booked such a flight - on april 8th 2000. after a short briefing i lowered myself down into the cockpit (which, of course, was very familiar to me,  because i found the very same instruments in a similar layout as in my dh-112 'venom' cockpit.) 

the ground crew strapped me into the ejection seat. and after the standard pre-flight checks  we taxied to the runway,  

again check list, and with the Gobelin engine set to full power Sigis released the brakes and we rushed down the runway - rotation -  and off we went.

flying in a relatively small jet is very different from flying in a small prop aircraft. the non-obstructed sight, the relative quietness (at cruising speed) and the lack of vibrations typical of piston engines makes it a very special feeling. Sigis let me grip the stick on the trainee's place so I could feel the real 'force feedback' of the controls. the vampire's controls are - in contrast to the later Venom Mk. IV - not servo supported. thus it really needs some power to bank the aircraft into a turn. 

we headed towards the mountains and passed a nearby lake, where a small prop plane with a video cameraman awaited us. after the video shooting Sigis lifted the nose and showed me a fast roll and also quite a few fast turns (>60° bank angle) with up to 3 g. not much, but if you are not familiar with high g's you get a 'feeling' of what it means to dogfight with 6 or even more g's. the weather was nice and clear, but with somewhat gusty winds, and so my stomach also got a slight (and luckily controllable!) feeling of what it means to become airsick.


after almost 40 minutes Sigis made one last turn into the the landing strip. we descended fast but landed very smoothly. my stomach was glad that Sigis didn't demonstrate another touch'n'go like he had done the first flight that afternoon!  
we taxied to the gas station to refill the 900 liters of fuel that we had burned. that's exactly one hundred times the full capacity of my motorcycle's tank! I will have to walk for a LONG time to compensate for that.... but, hell, it was worth it a thousand times!


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