I've been sharing with you some of my recent and also some of my older flights I did. I consider myself a previlege guy because I flew quite a few and in some great airliners, some classic too, some prop ones but I would like to share with you this one because it was a once in a life time experience that I'll never forget, here it goes.
It was 6:00 AM, I was ready to drive from Lisboa to Beja and pay a visit to Air Force Base there. Beja was during many years a base were German Air Force used to train their pilots, they used the F-104G Starfighter for a while but them they got the Alpha Jet and had other airplanes flying during some weeks, Tornados, Phantoms, etc. Latter the germans dropped the lease of Beja Base and Portuguese Air Force moved there. The trainning sylabus started with the T-33A and T-38, I was there to do a last report on the T-33 before they were retired.
I got there just when the Base was openning their doors in that morning, November the 12th. 1991. I got in the Esq. 102 and I was welcomed by Cap. Rosado and during all the morning I had the chance to chat, talk and get some good slides of the T-33 operation. At that time Portuguese Air Force only had 4 T-33 still active, 3 that came in late 70's from Belgium and the last one from the original batch that Portugal received in mid 50's. After lunch the surprised came, I was invited to take a ride in a T-33, first it was the surprise and then the excitement, Cap. Rosado introduced me to my pilot, Cap. Maia and soon I was dressing up for the ocasion. After been dressed here I was, like a top-gun pilot getting ready for my flight.
The plane for that ocasion was T-33A FAP Number 1928, I got in the back seat and started to beeing brieffed by Cap. Maia, he gave me all the details like if I was not feeling fine I could turn my oxigen to a rich mixture, also details about if we had a flame out what should we do and a very "shocking" message when Cap. Maia said this - " If for any reason I pass out and if you need to eject you take these procedures.... " and then I said - " And how about you Cap?" and he concluded - "The hell with me.... you are the one that will need to save your skin!!!!" and I mumbled myself something that I can't even remember now!
Well it was time to take off, the T-33A behaves like a fighter, very fast on take off and soon we were flying high over the southern skies of Portugal, during that time we had the chance to see some cities of Alentejo, a province of Portugal down south and then Cap. Maia asked me if I ever did some aerobatics before...... well at that point I talked to myself and said that problably this would start to get "heavy" but at the same time I knew that we couldn't make all sorts of aerobatics, this because we got fuel on our tip tanks and I recalled that Cap. Maia said that there was restriction with this, we strated to make almost vertical turns were I could see the ground in front of me and I could also see the flying suite acting over the G forces, a very interesting feeling, after this another shocking experience came when Cap. Maia comes with this challange - "Do you want to fly the plane?" - hey..... this is getting too much for me but I asnwered - "Yes!!!" and then he said " Ok hold now manche and start to turn the plane, look I taking the hands out ( and he actually showed them..... ) so you better take the plane in charge.... " and here I was actually flying a T-33A, then he asked me to turn, I first did it a very tiny bit but he said to turn steeper and I did..... well I just can tell you that it was awesome, a great feeling. In the end we did some low flying and again a great surprise we passed by the village were my parents were born and I took a picture! Soon it was time to land but even before that we did a touch-and-go and finnally landed.
It was the best and most fantastic flight I did in my life. I still have some photos of that day!
To finnish this report I must add a very sad event, after a few months I eard in the news that a portuguese T-38A Talon had a bird stricke and the front pilot had the front glass smashed against is face. The pilot was Cap. Maia, the same one that flew with me and his career was over, he lost one eye and couldn't fly anymore. I would like to pay my tribute to him saying that he was the one that gave me the oportunity to "be a pilot during 10 minutes".
Details of the flight:
Airplane: Lockheed T-33A
Registration: FAP Number 1928
Photo © Pedro Aragão