It was two days later when I flew again. By this time everyone on the course had gone solo and, as a result, there was much comparison of experiences in a more
relaxed atmosphere. My first flight of the two on that day included general handling
again and a practice QGH
so as to get used, in clear air, to flying on instruments and
controlling the aircraft under necessarily precise conditions.
The second flight involved the use of the Radio Compass - to us a new
navigation facility not installed on Vampires - a Mach
run, and finishing off with
. I climbed to over 45,000 feet, rolled over on my back, and pulled
through into a vertical dive with 100% power. As I accelerated towards the ground
crept up, then there were the effects of compressibility, some
juddering, and then it showed more than Mach
1 for a few seconds. Still diving
vertically, with the details on the ground growing ever larger in my windscreen, I
began to slow down because of the denser atmosphere, and slowed quickly below
1 when, at below 20,000 feet, it was time to pull out of the dive without doing a
high speed stall. I had flown faster than sound - that was something to tell the folks
at home! Now in level flight I began to sweat and realised that the friction of the air
had heated the airframe to the point when the canopy felt quite warm to a bared
wrist. What the local population thought of the constant sonic booms they must
have been hearing, and the damage done to their windows, I never knew. Later in
the year we were ordered not to do any more Mach
runs over land.
Using the Radio Compass gave us a chance to listen in to BFN
or some other radio programme that appealed, (seldom) using its transmitter as a point of
reference for navigation purposes. Seriously though, fixes could quickly be obtained
by getting the bearings of two known radio transmitters and, without having to
transmit, would not give away our location or identity to a potential enemy.
On the morning of Friday the 9th of April, the day our course ended, I was briefed for a sortie involving range and endurance flying at 40,000 feet. This sortie
lasted 1 hour and 25 minutes, longer than I had been airborne in any one flight since
my days of flying Oxfords.
Some of us were able to hitch a lift back to Jever in a Communications Flight
Anson that afternoon. Lumbering along as a passenger in a clapped out old Annie in
worsening weather bore no comparison to the exhilaration experienced at high
speed in the past few days. Worse, the further north we proceeded the worse the
weather became, to the point when Jever was clamped in and closed down. We had
to divert to Oldenburg and continue our journey by road.
The Sabre Conversion Course at Wildenrath.