The (re) Making of an A-10C Pilot

It has been a long, long time since I fired up the A-10C, so I thought it would be a fun exercise to go through the training campaigns that I purchased in the last DCS World sale.

For these AARs, I’ll be using the payware Maple Flag Missions DLC campaigns:

Though I’d love to see these types of campaigns based in NTTR, these were specifically made for the Caucasus. It will be nice to get back into the A-10C and see what I remember.

Prior to starting the first mission in the BFT campaign, I availed myself of the included Interactive Startup Trainer - Tester mission which is a fantastic tool to get new and experienced A-10C pilots back into the groove. During the startup procedure, the Instructor Pilot (IP) will call out items on a Scramble Startup Checklist. You have ten seconds to find and enable the item - if you don’t, the IP will show you where the switch or system is, and your score will suffer a deduction.

I had intended to fly this whole campaign in VR, however the VR screens don’t really adequately capture at a resolution good for sharing, so I’m taking one for the team and flying in normal 2D mode. Hoping back into the cockpit was really cool and, as always, I’m amazed that we have this unbelievable A-10C simulation as entertainment software.

I go through the interactive startup - and manage to score an 86% - some of the switches eluded my recollection (TISL knob and a couple others). Thankfully, once I missed them, the orange arrows pointed me toward their location to refresh my memory.

With the Startup Trainer Tutorial complete, I moved on to the Basic Flight Training curriculum. Consisting of twelve missions, the BFT campaign will rate your performance in the following areas:

  • General knowledge, airmanship and safety.
  • Pre-takeoff, and takeoff.
  • Navigation and maneuvers.
  • Approach, landing and after landing.
  • Communications and task prioritization.

Each mission has a non-rated “practice” mission that mirrors the structure of the rated missions - but I will only be demonstrating the rated missions. The campaign starts with a nice mission where you just listen to the overview of the campaign, with details about what will be expected, the curriculum, and some nice maps and detailed information.

BFT-01 - Ground Handling

BFT-01 will test our knowledge of thoroughness of completing the startup checklist, take us on a short taxi route around the airfield, and test us on our shutdown procedure. These tests can be brutally unforgiving in that if you miss just a single item, you will be deemed unqualified. It is a very (very) good idea to print out the briefing to make sure that you have accomplished all of the tasks that are expected of you.

The 15-minute window to bring the A-10C to life is generous, and if you would rather not wait on the rating of your start procedure and continuation of the mission, you can let your IP know that you have finished early.

Hopefully, you have hit all the right switches and initialized the systems properly. If so, you will sequence to the next phase of the mission - if not, you’ll be forced to try the whole thing again.

Next you’ll be tasked to follow the HUMVEE as he makes a circuit of the airfield. Taxi speed and distance is important, and the instructor will let you know if you are out of position. Portions of the route will take you in and among obstacles, so keep an eye on your wingtips to make sure you don’t accidentally run into anything.

The mission unfolds at a nice pace with well done triggers and voice-overs. While some might be bored with the execution of what might be perceived as a simplistic challenge, the missions can be quite hard to perfect. The pass/fail criteria can be somewhat frustrating if you only miss a single item, but you’re an A-10C pilot not a snowflake right?!!

And not all screw ups are disqualifying - some just earn you a gentle admonition…

Once back on the ramp, the shut-down time window I feel is a bit too rushed. For a mission where the penalty for missing something is so severe, I would have perhaps liked to have had maybe five minutes.

Oh drat…! Forgetting the EAC button earned me this. A second run through earned me a passing grade.

Next up - Takeoff and EFATO

Many thanks to -Heater- for allowing me to slap a Mudspike decal on his gorgeously weathered A-10C DT&E Early Test skin…

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Will this be on the test?

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Yes. It is the second question right after:

Q: Should A-10C pilots drink coffee with cream and sugar?

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Also added:

Many thanks to -Heater- for allowing me to slap a Mudspike decal on his gorgeously weathered A-10C DT&E Early Test skin…

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A1: No, the scones are too crumbly and create far too much FOD in the cockpit.

A2: Neither of those are Jeremiah Weed.

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Whew - just finished BFT-02 - and I’m feeling fairly incompetent…

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So with startup and taxiing behind us - it is on to Takeoff and EFATO (Engine Failure After Take-Off) - sounds exciting. It is worth mentioning that this campaign is a bit of a mix of tutorial and checkride…although probably more tilted toward checkride. Yes, you’ll definitely learn stuff, but the campaign assumes some knowledge of the A-10 via the stock training missions and reading the manual. So if you are looking for a hand-holding training campaign, this is definitely not it. The stock A-10C training missions, with their voiceovers and pointers, were very good (I assume they are still working).

BFT-02 starts with another very nice briefing, with custom briefing images and instructions that you can refer to during the mission.

Follow the start-up procedure we have already learned, trying to make sure not to forget anything. I found this mission was a bit more lenient in forgetting things, since I was admonished for three separate items over the course of the mission, but still managed to qualify.

For this hop, our IP will be flying off our wing, providing support, guidance, and critical comments…

This is why missions like this (that might bore others) really appeal to me - this type of flying most closely resembles the kind I do flying as a civilian. Headings, altitudes, airspeeds - basically following instructions. I might not be able to coordinate a CCRP attack on a moving column while utilizing a JTAC, but I’m pretty good at flying assigned instructions.

After a short vector, I’m instructed to shut down my right engine and perform a visual approach to landing using only the power from the left engine. A nice (easy) challenge. Throughout the approach I get some tips from the IP - again, a nice touch from the mission designer.

With the added pressure of having to hit the landing zone (this is actually now a requirement on FAA checkrides as well…resulting in all of us just driving airplanes onto the fixed distance markers in the sim…LOL) I stay on speed and keep the FPM short of the touchdown zone.

The IP hawks me all the way down…(I’ve nicknamed him Sgt. Foley)…

Success!

Pay attention until the end of the mission though - the mission isn’t over until the shutdown is complete…

Again, the two-minute shutdown seems a bit hurried, so I end up forgetting something again (the pitot heat)…

After the shutdown, the ratings start coming in. I forget an item on the startup, disabled nose-wheel steering a touch late, and (in the IP’s opinion), deployed the gear too late during the visual approach. Even though I was “Qualified Minus” in several areas, I still passed the checkride!

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LOL! This made me laugh!

Now. Imagine if they could? The approximate approach speed of an Emperor Penguin would be…

V = Sqrt(75 Lb / (0.84 Sq.ft x 0.00238 Slg x 0.75 x 0.5))

V = 316 Ft / Sec

or…

About 180 knots.

One heck of a bird, that would be. Like…

I want Penguins to achieve! :grinning:

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How are they gonna do the whole BLC thing? They’re gonna need a straw and burritos…

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ROFL!

I was thinking the same! :joy:

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Short question: How do you get a custom skin into a mission of a Pay-DLC-Campaign, which you can’t save…?

Before you start he mission there should be a briefing screen. At the center bottom of that there should be a large button that says “Mission Planning” or some such. Click that and you’ll see a map with your aircraft on it. On the right side there will be info about your flight, and the option to change loadouts amongst other things. You can change your skin in the load out page.

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I see myself as a rather competent virtual A-10C pilot, it is the module I have by far the most hours in, and I do practice some of the more obscure procedures in it now and then.

Still I am reluctant to fly that campaign. It may shatter my confidence…

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Yep…that’s it…!

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For BFT-03 - we will take to the air and follow the instructions to fly a traffic pattern - sounds easy enough right?

The start-up flow is coming along nicely. I’m forgetting less things each time - this time I think I got everything done correctly…

That is one worn out looking plane…

Once airborne, I head to waypoint #2 to rendezvous with the instructor…

Once I reach WP2, the performance checking starts. I’m given some airspeeds, altitudes, and headings to fly before I’m eventually told to contact the tower for approach vectors. There is a good bit of using the radios in these missions, a nice feature that adds some task loading to the rest of the flying.

The mission triggers in this campaign are really, really well done and this entire, very complex mission unfolded flawlessly.

The first pattern is a level pattern at 2,500’ while we wait for some departure traffic to clear out.

The precise flying in response to the instructions is really fun - for a non-combat mission, they are pretty intense and you feel like you have to concentrate 100% of the time.

I’m given vectors around the traffic pattern to give me an idea of what it should look like…

The mission designer did a fantastic job of mixing in a ton of other traffic - wandering away from your heading or altitude would definitely cause a traffic problem.

After the first pattern, I’m told to fly my own duplicate pattern at 2,500’ before I’m broken out on the downwind to receive vectors from ATC. This is a great mix of scripting and stock ATC that flow together perfectly. Very well done.

Cleared to land!

After landing, I realize I can give myself a bit of additional time on the ramp by cleaning up the aircraft after stopping upon exiting the runway. That way, I don’t have to scramble to get the entire shutdown procedure done in two minutes. The debriefing is the best I’ve had yet in this campaign - all tasks were “Qualified” with no “minus” - so a perfect hop! I was actually quite proud of that…!

Looking forward to BFT-04…

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Today we’ll fly a structured approach and landing pattern - taking cues from the Instructor Pilot.

During my cockpit startup “flow” - I hit the ON switch on the ILS nav radio and get an immediate admonishment…whoops!

Off we go to WP2 to meet up with the IP…

After climbing up to 7,000’ and taking some vectors from the IP, he goes over a few educational items and then turns me loose to contact Batumi Approach for a vector to the initial (visual) approach point…

Again, the mixing of mission triggers with the default ATC (and other traffic) is very well done and must have been a nightmare to script…

This approach goes well - again, it isn’t a tutorial, so you have to know to put your gear and flaps out at the appropriate time.

After a successful touchdown, we are immediately sent around on a touch and go…

Once again we climb up away from the field, take some vectors, altitudes, and speeds, and get boxed back around for another visual approach.

Another successful touchdown. I was admonished once for being a bit high in the middle of the approach, which I assume resulted in my Qualified-Minus rating in that area…but the rest of the flight check went well…!

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@BeachAV8R these campaigns do look very well done.

I’m not sure I could do them without getting super frustrated. I feel like much of starting something like that is technique as part of your own flow, as long as it complies with published procedures. I think I might lose my mind if I failed a mission because I started X system before Y if it wasn’t explicitly required.

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Our next flight will be one with some basic maneuvers.

As usual, the airfield and surrounding area is a beehive of activity - a nice feature of all the missions…

The flying in this mission is fun…with lots of airspeed changes and trim change requirements that keep your HUD scan going pretty fast. The FPM really does make maneuvers in fighters a bit easier than the rapid scan of a “six-pack” that most of us have to use in our civilian planes.

Slow flight is required to demonstrate the low speed handling qualities of the A-10C…which are very docile…

Nailing the headings, speeds, and altitudes is fun…and a nice change of pace from just dropping stuff on stuff…

There is some nice commentary throughout…

I’ll blame this deviation on my son…he wanted juice and he wanted it NOW!

After some fun maneuvering (leaves your shoulders a little tense) - it as time to check out some of the basic features of the autopilot…

Then back to the field…

The ratings came in pretty good. I had to repeat one slow flight circle because I think I started the maneuver too soon (prior to the instructor saying to proceed) and as a result, when I finished the maneuver, I wasn’t set to start the actual graded maneuver. I was pretty happy with it though. After all of the work you put into the start, the flying, and shutdown, you sorta want to at least make that Qualified or Qualified Minus grade. Unqualified is a bummer…

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:sunglasses:

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Today’s hop will include some “advanced handling” - which should be interesting. In reading the mission description I was brought back to the sweat drenched uncertainty I felt when I was trying to learn some of these maneuvers and perform them in front of a grizzled FAA designated examiner who was smoking in the airplane as I fumbled my way through them decades ago. I assure you, they were as ugly today as they were that day over 95 degree Conway, SC…

Per usual, the full startup is on the menu - don’t miss an item Cadet…!

Off we go to rendezvous at WP2…

Time to break out the beer and porn - we’re in the MOA…! Oh wait…maneuvers, yeah…

Where’d I put my sick sack? Looks like it’s gonna be a @smokinhole type of day!

There are a lot more voiceovers that I don’t show in these AARs - lots of good tips, advice, and parameters for the maneuvers…

Next up - a spin…! Which goes well…

Net up a spiral dive…again, the triggers and messages are perfectly constructed in these missions. I’m impressed…

Performing lazy eights - fortunately the parameters for judging appear fairly liberal, because mine weren’t the sharpest lines in the skies for sure…

After that - we do a duel flame-out deadstick landing. The divert airfield in the brief is the abandoned field, even though the much larger airfield of Kobuleti is below - but we’ll stick with the plan. It isn’t until I’m halfway down that I realize I can start the APU and use the APU gen to get my avionics partially back…duh…

I end up a little hot and high close in (typical for an engine out procedure) and touchdown a bit warm, then can’t remember where the emergency brake is until I’m about to barrel of the end of the runway. Into the grass I go, I flip, and still I manage to Qualify. Since part of the briefing was “you can eject if you have to”, I guess a broken airplane is just as good…

Hey…uh…is someone gonna get me out of here??

Fun mission with some fun maneuvers.

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