Heads You Win Tails I Lose

Following mention of the nose oleo extension and its maintenance problems, by Groupie Bharagava in one of the comments, Air Mshl Shashi Ramdas  contacted a few veterans to share their experiences. Having got their views on email he, like the true blood senior officer of the old school, passed them on to me to compile.

“You will recall that the Marut had a system of extension of the length of the nose undercarriage length. The upper part of the nose leg was actually a two-position jack. In the initial stages of development of the aircraft, it was thought that it would be beneficial to keep the nose leg in the extended position for takeoff, to give the wings a higher angle of attack during the takeoff roll, so that the aircraft could unstick at a lower speed. However, during extensive trials, it was found that there was a drag penalty attached to this takeoff technique which, more or less, cancelled the advantage. As a consequence, this technique of takeoff was abandoned.

There has now been some doubt whether or not the facility of extension of the nose leg (ie extra extension) was ever used during conversion training or for special exercises”

SK who has some experience on this take off technique has some pretty caustic comments about the procedure as something that was an extremely sore point with him.

“During the initial part of the aircrafts’ history the take off technique was that one had to extend the nose wheel after line up (extending that extendable nose wheel) and then start rolling with the stick fully back in the stomach, holding the stick back till the aircraft got airborne and then and then only was one supposed to ease forward slightly to let the aircraft pick up speed, knocking up the flaps once you hit 220 knots. This was a harrowing experience specially if you had fuel in the outboard tanks because you could feel the aircraft juddering and straining to get speed in that high nose up attitude. Of course at that time I was only a  ‘Kid’ so there was no question of opening my big mouth.”

However, SK being SK, he made his own rules:

“After a few sorties in this aircraft I had realized that the aircraft had a very high drag ratio, specially at high angles of attack , particularly at low speeds ( which was inevitable at take off ). And that is one reason I used to move the stick progressively forward at the time of take off so as to keep the nose as far down as possible and then as one approached the take off speed one slowly brought the stick back for a smooth and low angled take off with the aircraft flying off smoothly. This is something I kept to myself for the simple reason that it was the exact opposite of what was (then) being advocated.”

Air Mshl Satish Inamdar recollects  his conversion at ASTE in 1973 “…I do recall Mickey Jatar underscoring the point about ensuring that the nose oleo WAS in the retracted position (as part of VAs before wheels roll)….” Though It was not a routine procedure as such at the time, he recalls that his last conversion sortie was with the nose leg extended.

Air Mshl Ramdas recounts two horrifying experiences, one of which ended in tragedy:

“Air Mshl B D Jayal, an ASTE test pilot, had a hair raising experience with the Marut in Jamnagar. He gave a very practical (though inadvertent!) demonstration as to what happens when you get stuck on the wrong side of the drag curve! He spent the rest of that sortie, gingerly lowering his nose, from time to time, to coax his aircraft to gain a few knots at a time. Glad to say, he finally got it “flying” again……..

A person who was not so lucky with ‘that drag curve’ was the late Wg Cdr Piloo Kacker. That was a very, very sad accident. Bobby Kasbekar, Pete Gaynor and I were eyewitnesses to that accident.”

Again it is to SK that we must turn, he was a witness to the first incident and gives us an idea of just how grave the outcome could have been:

“…this classic take off on Runway 22 or 23, I forget which, but it was toward the West. I believe that take off was filmed from the end of the runway and those who saw it wont forget it to this day. The HF took off with this really high nose-up attitude, left the ground getting to a height of 2 to 3 feet and then it got stuck there. Flying past the threshold at the end of the Runway, not gaining an inch of height heading straight for the low lying bund at the far end clearing it by about a foot  (and this is no exaggeration). The film showed the aircraft stuck in that attitude disappearing in the dust kicked up by the backwash. The pilot got stuck in that attitude because if he pulled back on the stick, the speed dropped, and he crashed at the end of the runway and if he did not pull back he was heading straight for the bund. Ejection was simply not an option either. So for him that day it was a win win situation all the way.!!!!”

Subsequent to this incident the procedure was indeed revised. Here’s SK on the cure:

“t was soon after this incident that the policy of holding the stick back in to the stomach was abandoned, though at that time the Oleo Extension was not abandoned. (Refer to the pilot Notes of those days ).Then our test pilots hit the other end of the scale. They started advocating that you extend the nose oleo at take off, BUT this time hold the stick fully forward till you hit take off speed which was around 150 -165  depending on the AUW.

This was just as frightening, because with the Stick fully forward at 150 to 165 kts you could feel the nose wheel bouncing along the runway waiting to burst and send you cart wheeling on the runway. We all went through this during our conversion stage when much later, better sense prevailed and the extension of the nose wheel oleo was abolished and we were asked to do a normal take off without the nose wheel being extended or keeping the stick back in the stomach or shoving it forward at the time of take off.”

I am sure there are some other Marut aircrew and technical officers who may have more to say on the subject.

 

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