Few days ago I commented the Blue Angels’ almost crash at Lynchburg Regional Air Show, Va, when team’s leader CDR Dave Koss led the diamond formation too low at the end of the “Barrel Roll Break” maneuver. I explained that CFIT (Controlled Flight Into Terrain) is always a risk when flying formation aerobatics.
Now, two videos are going viral on the web. They show (one from the ground, another one from the cockpit) an Argentine Air Force IA-63 Pampa advanced trainer flying a crazy flyby at ultra low level (around 1 mt above the ground, in front of some guys filming the “show”) at 300 Kts, pulling 5.3 Gs (the HUD signals “Max G”) in the subsequent zooming that he ended with a sort of victory roll.
For much less, CDR Koss resigned.
Obviously, the Argentinean pilot (most probably an Instructor Pilot with many flying hours on his logbook), was skilled (and lucky) enough to perform the flyby without crashing the aircraft or hitting the trees surrounding the “display area”. However, I don’t consider him a “brave pilot” as the only thing such maneuver shows is lack of airmanship. Airmanship is founded on discipline, skill and proficiency and combines attitude, knowledge, situational awareness and decision making abilities, differentiating the superior pilot from the average one. The Pampa pilot was skilled, proficient and most probably had the required knowledge and experience to perform flybys or aerobatics but he flew at unreasonable height. Not even display teams’ solos fly so low as the risk of something going wrong is too high. At that speed and altitude, anything (windshear, turbulence, birdstrike, wake turbulence, engine FOD, temporary loss of power, control stick malfunction, etc) can have devastating effects for both the pilot and observers on the ground.
For some reason Gizmodo published a cockpit video with “some of the cockpit information has been blacked-out at their request, to avoid being identified”; however the full uncensored version of the video can be found on Youtube:
Flyby as seen from the ground: