• Going Places - African Tour Part 1

    Going Places - African Tour Part 1

    By Rodolfo Astrada

    Turns out I noticed a trend - which seems somewhat universal - of weight gain as time goes by. Worried features may be turning ever longer to detriment of reader patience I will start breaking down in shorter segments, see what happens.

    As promised in the last chapter, we are taking faithful D-ALCM down south, this time final destination will be near the tip of Africa, Johannesburg. This is also a regular Lufthansa Cargo schedule with a stopover for refueling and perhaps some freight shuffling in Nairobi. Usually technology or relatively high value manufactured products from Europe and the Far East go all the way down while some special manufactures from South Africa, or flowers, hides and other products fill the hold on the way back.

    Going Places

    Again a small hours departure, the dazzling patchwork of glittering towns dotting federal states of Hessen, and Baden-Wurttemberg, speak lots about Europe population density. Down in Schwabisch Hall we fly abeam of the Adolf Wurth - Hessental airfield which was home to the 53 Combat Squadron by 1939, later to fighter squadron 51, and from where ME 262 - first operational jetfighters - flew combat missions after being assembled in a nearby disguised factory. More than 30 airfields may be found within a 50 km radius or so, like Niederstetten - night fighters, Hohentengen where its large concrete runway allowed training and prototype test for Dornier Do 217 and Do 335. Many were Luftwaffe airbases in wartime, home to Me 109 and FW 190 squadrons. For those caught in the maelstrom no matter side, there was no choice, do their best to survive and fight with the means at hand. German pilots used to tell how they climbed warily into their cockpits, the canopy closing like the lid of a coffin. Thrown up to try stemming the relentless tide of allied mass bombing formations. Bombers crewed by young boys with no practical chance to survive a full campaign, such were the odds.

    For quite some time I spent hours flying combat simulation, can remember several different games in a wide spectrum of sophistication and realism. There were the arcade type, a passing curious look and move on. The serious early ones were crude by today's standards, yet had the magic quality of being immersive. In the sense you had to work hard, juggle several fronts as flying the aircraft, maneuver strategically, manage weapons, keep situation awareness and so on, you really felt like being there. The first I met and mentioned in a previous feature was an F15 simulator running on a Sinclair Spectrum. AI (artificial intelligence) was decent in the sense you should be shot down every day if playing carelessly, but could outmaneuver the foe and get on its 6 after some serious training. It was only armed with gun that fired straight forward no matter flight dynamics, fair try for such a basic fixture. Then one named "Top Gun" comes to mind, not surprisingly released after the movie. You had to fly F16's, qualify for carrier operations on F14's and then fight a hypothetical scenario of USSR invasion of the West Coast where you had to scramble on F18's to meet a variety of threats and perform deep bombing missions in occupied California. This was a late 80's game running on EGA graphics so it was technically fair at best. In one of the first missions I remember scrambling to fight off MiGs going for a military transport with VIP passengers. Got a lock and released a Sidewinder, and to my astonishment saw the fighter pop three flares! Just three red pixels trailing but it was as close to the real thing as it could be. The last combat simulator I used to some length was IL2 Sturmovik, highly praised in its debut thanks to astonishing care for details, realism and performance.

    Going Places

    Gracefully swooping over that Betty bomber formation in the Pacific, adrenalin pumps high while spraying bullets, watching debris fly from your hits, some smoke with any luck, then dive jinking crazy, see tracers fly by, the frightening bang of ordnance hitting your plane, scan anxiously the instruments, level out, relief, reposition for the next strike. More frequently than I care to admit, when not outrightly shot out of the sky I could end up with a crippled fighter, be it damaged ailerons or elevators or a dying engine. Then if played judiciously could sometimes pull an emergency landing even at home base perhaps steering only with rudder or controlling altitude with power for lack of pitch authority. We are hunter warriors by nature, more or less hidden somewhere deep within our minds. Warfare lures in some intoxicating way, easily rationalized and on we go. By the way, I do not know of anybody having played combat flight simulation that never got killed. Food for thought if you are considering a combat pilot career and wish to do it for real. So much for cheap philosophy for the day.

    Corfu - or Kerkyra - ahead, this is a rather elongated island close to the Albanian coast, full of history as elsewhere in the Greece sphere of influence, cradle of occidental legacies like democracy. Again as elsewhere in Europe, Corfu history bears witness to recurring struggle for power and domination. First inhabitants came from Corinth, yet non-Corinthian settlers populated the fertile southern lands ending in direct confrontation with the former. Conquered and set free once and again by Persians, Athenians, Spartans, Romans, the Byzantine Empire, the Republic of Venice, repeatedly attempted to be taken by the Ottomans (without success), France, the British Empire, finally joining Greece in 1864 for good. We could go on with the tale of events associated with the wars and twentieth century struggles but should rather vote against. Why, there are other aspects worth digging out perhaps more cheerful, like for example famous Greek mythology, a matter on which Corfu relates strongly. My mother introduced Greek mythology when I was a child, something I took on and reissued with my own children albeit with varied success.


    1 Comment
    1. flapman's Avatar
      flapman -
      Another excellent article in the series. Thank you.
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