June 26th, 2002
My buddy Malcolm is getting married in about 2 months, so as a surprise adventure, I whisked him away to try out his hand at real aerial dog-fighting. North American Top Gun is a great outfit that lets you pilot a real WWII dog-fighting trainer; I signed up Malcolm and myself with them for a package in which we each got to fly our own plane, and we went head-to-head against each other in two one-hour flights.
The North American Top Gun folks travel from airport to airport, depending on the time of year: our package was set up to fly out of Ogden, Utah, so on Friday night Malcolm drove down to Seattle, and we hopped on a flight bound for Salt Lake City. (Malcolm still didn't know what we were headed there to do.) We were scheduled to fly on Saturday, but a low cloud cover forced us to spend an extra night in Utah, but fortunately the weather cleared and we were good to go on Sunday morning.
After about an hour of instruction on the ground on Saturday, we were all set to do our first dogfight Sunday morning. The aircraft we flew were Texan T-6 combat trainers; they sit two pilots: one in the front, one behind, kind of like a biplane. Our instructors sat behind, and took care of the takeoff and landing of the craft. Once we were in the air, they gave us about 15 minutes of practice maneuvers, and then we started our dog-fighting!
Dog-fighting essentially means attempting to maneuver your aircraft into a position to fire forward on the other aircraft. To do this, you and the other aircraft enter into tight cornering, attempting to corner faster and more efficiently than the other plane. This means we spent a lot of time in a 70-degree bank, pulling 2-2.5 G's of force, spiraling to get behind each other. It was great fun. We had a total of about 4 dogfights over the two hours; I won 3, and Malcolm won 1. But, Malcolm would have won 3 of the 4 if he hadn't, err, lost his lunch on two of them. ;)
In addition to dog-fighting, we got to try flying aerobatic maneuvers. My instructor taught me how to fly aileron rolls and inside loops. In the inside loop, you end up pulling about 4 G's of force. This was a very uncomfortable feeling: you're shoved hard back into your seat, and it is hard to keep your arms raised. But, it was well worth it.
Some photos (click on the photos below to expand them into full-sized pictures):
|Malcolm before flying, at the airfield in Ogden:|
|Malcolm sitting in the cockpit of his Texan T-6 fighter on Saturday:|
|Another shot of Malcolm in the cockpit; note the clouds moving in:|
|Finally, we're up in the air! This is a shot I took from my plane of Malcolm in his plane (along with Pawel, his flight instructor). The land you see is the flatlands and salt planes north of Salt Lake City.|
|Another shot of Malcolm in his plane; this is after our second session of dogfighting.|
|The four of us: from left to right, John and Pawel (our flight instructors), Malcolm, and myself.|
To understand the observable side-effects of losing one's lunch, we studied the distribution of colours present in detailed photographs of an anonymous subject's face before and after having flown in a dog-fight in a Texan T-6 trainer. The subject (named Malcolm for the purposes of this study) had purportedly lost his lunch twice while dogfighting. The colour distribution analysis shows two effects: first, a noticeable desaturation of color occurred after dog-fighting which caused Malcolm's face to grow paler, and second, a sharp increase in the relative balance of green occurred manifesting itself as a slightly nauseous look.
To perform our analysis, we extracted portions of photographs of Malcolm's face before and after having flown in the dogfight. The analyzed portions are shown below, in Figure 1.
|Figure 1: the portions of Malcolm's face (extracted from "before" and "after" photographs) that we analyzed for this study. The "zoomed in" squares were used to calculate the spectral distribution of pixels. Even before detailed analysis, some manifestations of the side-effects of dog-fighting are apparent.|
Our analysis consists of computing the spectral distribution of pixels within the extracted regions of the photographs. Our spectral distributions consist of the distribution of color intensities in each of the red, green, and blue colour axes of the standard RGB colour space.
Results and Conclusions
In Figure 2, we present the spectral distributions of the pixels in the before and after images of our subject.
|Figure 2: the spectral distributions of pixels within the "before" and "after" regions.|
Two effects are pronounced. First, a spreading out across intensities of each colour dimension is observable in the after image, leading to a paler gray complexion. Second, a noticeable spike exists in the green spectrum in the after image, contributing to the obvious appearance of nausea. From this, we conclude that the observable side-effects of losing one's lunch while dog-fighting may typically include a general pale, grayish-green appearance in the face. Although not presented in this study, the subject's complexion returned to normal within a few hours after the dog-fights were over; this suggests that the side-effects may not be permanent (however, we would have to perform a cognitive study for this to be conclusive).