Areo Club Hears Retired REAR Admiral

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             Grumman A-6 Intruder

The Sun Lakes Aero Club was privileged to have Retired Rear Admiral Jim Symonds as a guest speaker for their December 19th gathering in the Mirror Room of the Sun Lakes Country Club. He is a graduate of the University of Albany and an accomplished Naval Aviator with over 4000 hours in his log book.

Symonds gave a pictorial presentation of the A- 6 Intruder with segments on Specifications, Armament and Carrier Landings. Carrier landings generated a lot of questions from the audience of 80 plus attendees. Part of Rear Admiral Symonds sea duty included “Captain” of the aircraft carrier USS  Ronald Raegan.

The A-6 Intruder is an All Weather Heavy Strike Aircraft with an empty weight of 25,000#. It can carry 4 people plus a load of ordinance at 550 knots per hour; service ceiling is 42,000 feet and range 860 miles. Symond reported it as a very stable aircraft with very heavy controls. At one time, he achieved supersonic speed in the A-6 by diving at 90 degrees (straight down) at full power from 42,000 feet. This could not be achieved beginning at a low altitude.

On board radar was very refined allowing crew to count fence posts along the fields. This created nighttime navigational awareness to be able to follow changing terrain within 500 to 1000 feet safely.

Armament. The A-6 carried 18,000 pounds of ordinance that might include 250#, 500  or 2000# bombs. Other options were anti- ship missiles, air to ground missiles or cluster bombs (a 2000 # bomb containing 200 smaller bombs) that could b  programmed to detonate at a pre set altitude. Dive bombing with the A-6 began with a 40 degree dive towards a target release point at 350 Knots.

Carrier Landings. This by far is one of the most challenging parts of naval aviation. Naval Cadets could achieve the necessary skills for daytime carrier landings in about 200 flight hours. Night landings required substantial development of additional skills.

Day time landings were flown with a pattern of downwind, base and short final. A flight deck control officer monitored progress of the approaching plane and cleared the pilot to land or waved him/her off for a go around for another attempt. Pilots were guided by a visual spot that looked like a yellow ball. In the event the ship was rising and falling on ocean swells the control officer would advise pilot to “hold glide path” as the ship fell and then “follow the ball” as ship returned.

Night landings began 20 miles out and straight in line with the flight deck. Electronic guidance allowed  pilot to arrive at a point close to the flight deck where he/she continued visually with the yellow ball and continual input from the flight deck officer. The ball appeared 33 feet across at 12 miles out but narrowed to 2 feet at the beginning of the flight deck giving precision guidance.

The flight deck has 5 cables, one of which will catch the arresting hook hanging from the plane and stop it quickly. Tensions on hydraulically controlled cables must be pre-set for each landing to accommodate the speed and weight of the incoming plane.

Pilots were graded on the quality of the landings which was posted for fellow pilots to see. “You are not afraid of dying from a blotched up landing  but scared to death of a bad grade” Symonds said! The competition makes good pilots better!

A typical carrier might be home for 70 planes. Carriers can land a plane every 45 seconds in day light or at one minute intervals at night.

SLAC is an official organization in the Sun Lakes community. The group meets the third Monday of each month from November through April.  For additional information, contact Cannon Hill at  509-530-785; Gary Vacin at 298-7017; or visit the SLAC website, www.sunlakesaeroclub.org