B-2 Spirit with USAF Lt Col (Ret) Chris “Cliff” DeVaughn – Audio Episode Show Notes


These are the show notes to an audio episode. You can listen to the show audio by clicking here: http://traffic.libsyn.com/airspeed/AirspeedB2withPreRoll.mp3. Better yet, subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your other favorite podcatcher. It’s all free!

In 2010, Rod Rakic and I flew to Whiteman AFB near Knob Noster, Missouri (or very close thereto) to meet Lt Col Christopher “Cliff” DeVaughn, get a tower tour, and fly the B-2A Weapons System Trainer.  It made an impression and I wrote it up in a blog post.

Shortly thereafter, Cliff retired from the Air Force and he and I hatched the idea of having him on the show to talk about the B-2.  Almost everything about the B-2 is steeped in OPSEC (and we were both very interested in maintaining that OPSEC), so a long period of seeking clearances and working through PA and operations approvals ensued.  The approvals came through and we recorded in January.  Then, for only the second time in Airspeed’s history, the subject agency had security and PA personnel vet and approve the content before posting.  (The other time was in 2007 and it involved NASA.)

If that sounds like a process that might lead to a pretty dry and superficial episode, you’d ordinarily be right.  But, thanks to Cliff and the Air Force, this is a pretty rich and detailed look at the aircraft and the warriors who fly them.  We talked about the aircraft, its flight characteristics, and its mission.  And, more importantly, we talked about what it’s like to fly long-duration missions in one of the most important strategic weapons systems in the US inventory.  All the way from the selection process through training and into combat.  This is every bit as much about the men as the machines.

And so, here it is!  Another podsphere and new-media first right here on Airspeed!

For more information about the US Air Force and officer recruiting programs, check out www.airforce.com.

You can follow Cliff on Twitter or check out his Facebook page.


Be sure to take advantage of Airspeed’s special offer from Audible.com!  Click here and get a free audiobook as part of an Audible trial subscription.  You get to choose from more than 100,000 audiobooks, Airspeed gets a few bucks, and everybody wins!

Death by Black Hole

You can, of course, choose any audiobook you like, but Airspeed‘s suggested selection this time around is Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Death by Black Hole, an anthology of some of Dr. Tyson’s most popular articles and other writings dealing with everything from spaghettification to the scourge of outdoor lighting.  Neil doesn’t read it (as is obvious from the narrator’s screwups like pronouncing Saturn V as “Saturn Vee”), but it’s otherwise not hard to suspend disbelief and hear Dr. Tyson come through clearly.


Early-Season Training Continues – Team Tuskegee and CAP Form 5

Tupper Craig TG-7A

Time has been amazingly scarce these past few months.  But that doesn’t mean that I can let the rust build up on my wings.

Last weekend, I got up with Team Tuskegee for some three-ship formation deep in the Detroit Class B.  I needed some echelon takeoff and landing experience, so I flew 2 in a phantom 4 configuration, landing and taking off abreast of lead on 21L at Detroit Metro (KDTW).  John Harte ably flew Lead and Chris Felton flew a very competent 3 (or, as he likes to be called, “Element Lead”).  We also got in some tail chasing and other more general formation work with me flying 3 and Chris as 2.

I took along Alex Craig, one of CAP’s check airmen in the Michigan Wing, with whom I’ve flown several checkrides over the years.  Alex is an ATP with thousands of hours logged, but little time in gliders or in formation.  Alex sat left seat to observe the formation work.  And, as Tim Brutsche likes to say, flying an aircraft with an empty hole is a sin.  Aviation is always best when it’s shared.

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Then, this past weekend, Alex and I switched seats and aircraft and I flew a CAP annual Form 5 stan/eval ride.  I hadn’t flown the CAP glass C-182T in maybe six months.  Needless to say, I spent a fair amount of Saturday preparing for the Sunday-morning ride.

I approached this ride with more trepidation than usual, largely on account of the rust build-up.  But I suppose that I needn’t have worried.  I goofed up the throttle work a little (one of the few cross-contamination problems that I experience between the TG-7A and the C-182T) and I managed to forget which way the glideslope indicator was supposed to move and I got fairly high on the glideslope on the ILS 27 at KFNT.

But, generally speaking, the ride went far better than I expected.  I’ve always hated landing the C-182T.  I still do.  It’s so nose-heavy.  You run out of elevator pretty quickly in that aircraft if you’re CG-forward, as you almost always are when you’re flying with two guys and 60 gal. of fuel.  The usual way to deal with that, namely keeping a little power in on the flare and flying it all the way to the runway like an airliner, isn’t an option for practice engine-out work.  So it was all attitude and airspeed on many of the landings.

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I did use one technique that I recommend to anyone who has hot hands with a C-172 but has problems with the C-182.  Put 50 lbs of something in Cargo Area B.  It moves the CG back a little and makes the landing flare a lot more controllable.

We rocked out the high airwork, did most of the landings (engine-out, soft-field, etc.) at Lapeer (D95), shot the ILS 27 and the RNAV 36 (twice) at KFNT, then flew back to Pontiac (KPTK), where I think I did my best short-field landing ever in that aircraft, getting it down and stoppable before the 1,000-foot markers.

Work and other commitments are still keeping me out of the cockpit more than I’d like to be, but I think I’ve done as good a job of getting active and proficient early in the season this year as I ever have.


Team Tuskegee Ramps Up Training


Team Tuskegee has begun to ramp up its training. Element takeoffs and landings yesterday deep in the Bravo. Echelon. Tail chase. Overhead break back at Detroit City (KDET). It’s still less than a year since I first flew a TG-7A. Last march, it was all about giggles and having fun. It’s still a lot of fun.

But the standard is different this time. This is the first pre-season when I’m actively working with an airshow standard in mind. There’s nothing whatsoever wring with with working to PTS or working up to competent $100 hamburger flying. Train for your mission and for safe outcomes and I’m with you.

As for me, though, every time I take off, land or maneuver, I see a crowd line and 10,000-plus people out of the corner of my eye and I hear Ralph Royce in my headset. It’s not long now before I won’t just be imagining that crowd (or Ralph). It’ll be real. And, providing that we nail down out FAST cards and get some additional training done in time, the Tuskegee demo will be even more complex.

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Think landing at OSH is intimidating? It is. Or so I’ve heard. But what if everyone near the flightline at OSH was actually watching you instead of buying stuff and talking and not paying attention to arrivals? And what if they had all had cameras? And what if there was a guy on the PA system telling them who you are and where you live? Suddenly, even the simple act of landing an aircraft ought to become pucker-palooza.  That’s what it is to fly an air show.

But with enough of the right kind of training, it’s no more than you should reasonably expect of yourself. The airshow guys are fond of saying: “Perfection is expected. Excellence will be accepted.” They mean it. So you go out on cold February mornings, brief the flight exhaustively, fly it with everything you have, then pick it apart back at the hangar. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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We’re working hard, bundled up with extra socks and thermal undies under our flight suits. Because each of us imagines that crowd line in the snowy fields near the flight line. And we imagine you in that crowd.

Soon, the fields will be green, the barrels and stakes will go up, and you’ll actually be in that field. We’re training hard now because we know what it is to be in that crowd and we’re very conscious of that part of your dreams that you vest in us by coming to see us fly.

And every single one of us can barely believe that we get to do this.