DeHavilland Vampire Mk. 3
By Victor Knight (4 August 2003)
I shudder to realize that for me it all began at the halfway mark, 50 years ago! The great thing about flight simming is that we can all pretend; imagine ourselves as captains of mighty aircraft traveling the globe, or perhaps as air aces shooting down the enemy with cool precision.
In the real world, airline captains and military aces all have one thing in common: they can fly. And they didn't learn their skills in a jumbo jet or an F-15. The professionals stand ready, and are very capable, of flying their aircraft without the benefit of all the modern aids. They are the PhD's of the air. They know their stuff. In this age of pickle sticks and flight decks, I invite you to spend a little time back in the days of cockpits and joysticks, the days of sweat and real fear. I invite you to do what the professionals have already done: truly learn to fly. We keep demanding, "As real as it gets," and we should do our part by making it, "As real as we can."
This review is of the DeHavilland Vampire, a wonderful jet for flight training. I was introduced to this little wonder at the #5 Flying Training School, RAF Oakington, in what was then, Cambridgeshire, England. There were two trainer versions of the Vampire jet at Oakington; the dual seat T-11, and the single seat, T-5.
Roger Hardy has done a great job creating the original model and texture for the Vampire Mk.3 represented here, as has David Friswell with his updated version which includes a very nice .air file. For me, all that was missing were the yellow bands on the wings and tail booms. The warning sign that the pilots of our jets were novices.
There is a nice panel by Simone Prattico. It looks a little fancier than the one provided to training schools in the fifties that I recall. Things at Oakington, were pretty basic. The panel consisted mainly of what we referred to as the "Blind Flying Panel." A small cluster of instruments essential to flight: artificial horizon, radio compass, turn and slip indicator, rate of climb indicator, airspeed indicator, altimeter. We even called the instruments funny names, huh?
The sound file in this package is by Mike Hambly, and is superbly real. The Vampire engine has a very distinctive whine. I lived with this noise for a year, and hearing it again sent chills down my spine!
Now for the flying lesson! Please don't cheat here, as you can really learn a lot by doing things by the book. The file includes a comprehensive checklist. Be sure to go through the proper engine start procedures. Some of the best sound effects are here. Also, David's update provides a nice compression of the nose wheel as the engine speed builds before releasing the brakes. Rotation is at 100 knots. Retract the gear and the one notch of flaps used for take off, and you are on your way.
The Vampire is a lot of fun to fly, and this simulated version is very accurate. Learn to control your altitude, speed, and attitude without the use of an automatic pilot. (There wasn't one.) Learn to do things right and get the feel of actually flying a jet. If you mess up and need to bail out, remember there is no ejection seat. The Martin Baker Company had already developed one, and it had been installed in an earlier British jet, the Gloster Meteor. I don't know if it was true, but older pilots maintained the Meteor needed one. They called them "Meat Boxes!" If you feel the necessity to part company with Her Majesty's Vampire, invert the aircraft and trim to fly hands off. Disconnect the oxygen line from the economizer, disconnect the R/T (radio) cord, eject the canopy (black and yellow handle), undo your safety harness, and drop out. Simple enough! You might want to pull the rip cord somewhere before arriving at the ground.
Strangely, I had two instructors on the Vampire, neither of them British. Both were superb flyers and teachers. One was Polish, a WWII fighter pilot with a Distinguished Flying Cross who could cuss and swear better than any sailor. The other, was American. He would say, "You've got to do better than this. We Yanks demand our pilots fly their aircraft with precision. Your Limey commanders aren't satisfied if you just fly a plane. They want you to wear it!"
The DeHavilland Vampire enjoyed great success. A short history is included in the file. Used mainly as a fighter-bomber, it was a mainstay of many air forces around the world. It arrived a little too late to see service in WWII, but was truly a pioneer. The twin boom configuration came about to allow a short engine tailpipe, necessary because of the original single jet's low power output.
I enjoy the series by a flight simmer relating his experiences in learning to fly a real airplane. The comparisons he makes to the flightsim world and the real one. The simulator helps a great deal in learning to fly, especially if you set conditions and controls realistically. A civilian instructor is teaching him to fly in return for money. In the military, things aren't so forgiving. Your spine-chilling fear comes not from any danger, but being petrified that you will screw up and wash out. This package brought back many memories. The gyroscope in the artificial horizon that would topple during aerobatics and take forever to right itself. The engine that would flame out, leaving you frantic to relight it. Thank you, Roger Hardy, David Friswell, Simone Pratticco and Mike Hambly. A great international effort!
Download the DeHavilland Vampire.