AD-5 Skyraider: Dipping
into the Horsepower Pool
I was strapped in the maw of a hurricane. As the throttle went forward, the gigantic prop, which at idle had been a racheting circle of nearly-visible blades, vanished. My legs were spread wide, my heels off the floor as my toes strained to keep the brake pedals nailed to the stop. Angry air beat it's way down the fuselage, hammering at the tail surfaces while my right arm tensed to keep the stick sucked into my lap. The throttle kept moving. 20 inches of manifold pressure. 30 inches. The noise built until thinking took a concentrated effort.
I visually fixated on the runway centerline so visible over the hulking nose. At least, I was thinking, Skyraiders have great visibility. Brakes off, throttle to 45 inches. It could go as high as 58 inches. The horse power doubled. 2,000 horses plus and, as the brakes came off, the airplane stopped fighting me. It lunged ahead. We were perched on an invisible torrent of horsepower converted to thrust through the miracle of aerodynamics.
My brain rushed to catch up. Keep the nose straight, get the tail up only after it's moving at a pretty good clip. I heard a voice inside my head asking, just what the hell is the definition of a pretty good clip.
There was a pesky little ten knot crosswind at nearly ninety degrees. I thought this big honker would ignore it. I was wrong. The nose headed into it. A little rudder. Then a little more. Time to bring the tail up. I eased the stick forward and watched the nose move down. Although I'd expected to feel the hard rubber deck tire behind us leave the runway, I didn't. That feeling was lost in the cacophony of noise and vibration that surrounded me.
In seconds the gear was skipping on the runway. It was ready to fly. I tightened up on the stick the tiniest amount and the airplane gracefully flowed into the air. I'd just made my first takeoff in a Skyraider!
Then, of course, my moment of glory faded when I let the cross wind push me off centerline during the climb. Oh, well.
At that moment two totally separate feelings overwhelmed me. First I mentally thanked Hank Avery of Hickory, North Carolina for giving me the opportunity to fly one of his pride and joys while Doc Sidnler rode herd on me in the other seat. Second, I was keenly aware of playing a role which I hadn't earned.
Yes, I was flying a Skyraider and, truth be known, before the afternoon
was out was feeling fairly comfortable in the airplane. Not a hard
task it turned out. But flying a Skyraider and being a Skyraider
pilot are two entirely different things. I'd spend the day learning
how and when to turn the knobs and push the buttons, but I'd never
in a million years know what it was like in the real world of the