Tag Archives: Pampa

Don't do this at home: the Argentinean pilots braveness dispute

Following is the list of the most interesting consequences of my recent blog posts about the Argentine Air Force IA-63 Pampa crazy flyby and about the Argentinean A-4AR’s tank disintegration:

  1. both posts generated comments in a sort of never ending quarrel between those who believe the Argentinean pilots are brave and perform such maneuvers because they are among the best pilots in the world, and those who believe that the Pampa flyby and similar one are only clownish stunts that could be extremely dangerous.
  2. since I’m among those who consider “poor airmanship” such improvised air shows, there’s someone who believes I don’t have a high opinion of the Argentine Air Force and Argentinean pilots
  3. I’m receiving many more links to videos of similar maneuvers; most of the them about Argentinean aircraft.

Dealing with Pt. 1, I’ve already said that I don’t think the Pampa “low passage” had anything to do with braveness or skill. I don’t even think that there’s a particular need for current military crews to train flying that low. There are many videos of French Mirage F1 flying in Chad at ultra low level, but they don’t seem to fly as low as the Argentine Pampa.

Dealing with Pt.2, I simply sustain that THAT (or THOSE) pilots involved in the maneuvers can be blamed, not all the Argentine Air Force that I deeply respect and that I would like one day or another to be able to know more in-depth and to write about – if they invite me to fly with them for a special report I’ll be more than happy to accept! :-).

Dealing with the videos, I’ve been pointed to a couple that show how risky improvised air shows can be, even when they don’t imply difficult maneuvers. The problem is that in Aviation, “Improvised” things are usually “Dangerous” things….

The following video shows an accident that occurred in 2001 to a T-34 Mentor at the Escuela de Aviación Militar de la Fuerza Aérea Argentina of Cordoba. The formation leader misjudged the position of the left wingman who hit the control tower. The left wingman was watching the leader (as it always happens in formation flying…do you remember what happened to the Blue Angels?) and could not see the left wingtip hitting the tower.

Since not all the videos I receive deal with the Argentine Air Force, here’s one that has been circulating for a while showing a French Rafale almost crashing into the sea during a quite unusual air display next to a ship. I don’t know if it was a pre-planned display or not, and if the aircraft was flown by a qualified display pilot. Still, the plane went too low because of a pilot error (maybe induced by the environment).

After the Argentine Air Force IA-63 Pampa crazy flyby the Argentine AF A-4AR's fuel tank disintegrating after a high-G maneuver….

One of the recent most discussed topic on this blog was the one about the Argentine Air Force IA-63 Pampa performing a crazy low passage. If you read my post and the subsequent thread of comments, you’ll see that the video caused a debate between those (like me) who consider that flyby an example of poor airmanship and those (mainly Argentinean readers) who believe that the “low passage” showed the skill of Argentinean pilots.

In the meanwhile, a new video shows how risky this performances can be. An amateur footage posted on Liveleak shows an Argentine AF A-4AR Fightinghawk performing a high-G climb from low level whose “collateral effect” is the collapse of the right fuel tank (with debris falling on the airport). Obviously, the maneuver which caused the fuel tank “disintegration” is not as dangerous as the Pampa one, but it demonstrates that flying at low altitudes at high speed (in this case with modernized planes built in the ’70s), when not strictly required for operational purposes, can stress the airframes to such an extent they could break apart, (potentially) causing loss of control of the aircraft or simply rendering an airport unserviceable because of debris and consequent FOD (Foreign Object Damage) risk. Don’t forget that the IA-63 Pampa pilot in the above mentioned video, pulled 5.3 G (the HUD signals “Max G”) in the zooming following the flyby. What if his fuel tank collapsed creating a weight unbalance at ultra-low level?

Argentine Air Force IA-63 Pampa crazy flyby uncensored cockpit video: an example of poor airmanship

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: