" Beautiful airplane, flies first-class. "
This is the phrase with which Marcel Dassault, one of the biggest names worldwide of the aeronautical industry, defines his notion of aerodynamics. And logically, this is the direction that we can find in his work. All his beautiful airplanes place details of aerodynamics in first place, and use revolutionary design. The Mirage is one of these airplanes. Conceived with a delta wing, a SNECMA 200 Atar 9K-50 of 7 kg propulsion for an engine, the Mirage is an aircraft capable to carrying a load of 6,450 kg. Its relation weight/power is, in the maximum weight of take-off, 1.875 kg/kg of thrust. That already gives an idea of how great the performance of this airplane must be.
In our Air Force it was Mirage IIIEBR/DBR that, 26 years ago, inaugurated the age of supersonic aviation, piloted for the so-called "Dijon Boys", the first supersonic pilots of the FAB. I pause here to remember their names. They are: Cel.-Av. Antonio Enrique Alves Dos Santos, Cel.-Av. Jorge Frederico Bins, Ten.-Brig.-do-Ar Ivan Moacyr of the Fleet, Ten.-Brig.-do-Ar Ronald Eduardo Jaeckel, Cel.-Av. Ivan Von Trompowski Douat Taulois, Ten.-Brig.-do-Ar Lúcio Starling de Carvalho, Cel.-Av. Thomas Anthony Blower, and Cel.-Av. Jose Isaias Villaça.
Well, we go directly to the model for Flight Simulator. On the day when I downloaded this airplane, I was not looking for military airplanes. My interest, to be sincere, was more to civil airplanes or small transports. However I could not resist, as I already knew a little of the history and the importance of this aircraft, as well as the descriptions of the air combats and also of the description of the evolution of the aeronautical technology. I installed the model and I decided to conduct a test flight.
After some study, and talking with a colleague of mine, I attempted to carry out the test flight from Anápolis Airbase, situated only ten miles from Brasilia. But he did not have any confirmation of my plans so I modified then my test program. I would take off from Natal in route to Recife and, from this flight, would get the cruise information of this aircraft. Then continue on to Anápolis, leaving from Recife.
Beginning then Flight Simulator I selected August, the airport Severe, and the Mirage... I give one brief look at the outside of the model and verify that this is the twin-seat version, more directed to the training of pilots, however equally functional in combat. I go to the fuel menu and notice the absence of tanks. Stand by. This aircraft possesses only two main tanks.
It is 12:41, local time. Procedures of ascent chosen, we go to the cabin of our airplane. I imagine then what will be my speeds for take-off and, lined up on Runway 16L with 2,268 meters of asphalt in front of me, I push the throttle forward and I observe the speed going up quickly, with a brutal acceleration. When passing an indicated airspeed of 90 I pull back on the stick and I keep it in this position. Therefore I am unaware of my Vr. Expecting the nose to go up while the aircraft speeds up on the slot of the Severe Augustus. The sky was clear, only a small covering of 2/8 at 7,000 feet. The visibility also was excellent.
Passing 170 kts the nose of the Mirage starts to go up. I ease off the stick a little so as not to take the airplane to an absurd attitude, which would be disastrous. I take the aircraft for only a pitch of 10°, and leave the soil with smoothness at 207 kts, our Vi. The aircraft starts to go up with smoothness, and keeps the attitude in order to gain speed. Retracting landing gear, as I arrive at 230 kts, I give the aircraft more pitch and reduce the power to 67% of N1. We accelerate then to 250 and keep going this speed without modifying the power, only raising the pitch and finding there a rate of climb of 2,750 feet per minute. Not bad for a power so reduced...
I find the NDB of João Person, 320, in ascent for FL250. At 12:44, only three minutes after my take-off, I already was crossing the FL100, and keeping the same rate of ascent. In the take-off I felt the maneuverability, very efficient and with responses that presented no special trend. But they require a delicate touch and I do not exaggerate. Already in a turn, thus that I was to adjust the nose, I perceived that the ailerons are loaded with inertia. You pull backwards on the stick to return to the neutral position and aircraft continues to roll on its longitudinal axis. A small correction in the other direction is necessary to stabilize the curve in the desired position, but with this I perceived one other trend. The aircraft can enter in a light dutch-roll, that is, a light oscillation of yaw and rolling of the airplane. If you can fly this airplane in a relaxed way, and, even so it's handling is simple and soft, it always demands attention and discipline.
I continue in ascend with no easing of power, keeping the speed and yielding a bit in pitch of the aircraft, a time that already I am more than contented with the ascent ratio that I obtain in these patterns. I imagine what must be its angle of ascent with maximum power. Something a bit frightful for me, since I am more accustomed to commercial airplanes of average transport... I reach FL250 at 12:51, ten minutes after the take-off. What that corresponds to is a ratio of average ascent of 2,500 feet per minute. And this with the power set at only 67% of N1!
I start to work at leveling the aircraft, which, as in all piloting, demands attentive however calm work. The aircraft speeds up to Mach 0.83, and I decide to stabilize the aircraft in this speed, to test its consumption in cruise of long pitch. In military airplanes, the consumption is something extremely variable and corresponds directly to the type of mission that will be carried out. Supersonic flights and with many abrupt maneuvers, ascents and accelerations demand an amount of fuel many times greater that a flight of normal cruise. Therefore it is my idea to make this flight at a low speed, thereby giving an idea of the range of this aircraft with full tank.
To keep the speed in Mach 0.83, only 49% of N1 was enough. What it demonstrates to the impressive available power of the SNCEMA Atar 9K-50. In little time locking João Person and already I receive the NDB from Recife, 116.9. I am already initiating a shallow descent, to perhaps test a descent in power off more ahead a little, but what it really called to my attention was the option to keep me in cruise until well past Recife, to reduce throttle to idle and to open spoilers. I held then my course until the DME indicated to me that there was only 25nm between my aircraft and the airport of Recife. Perhaps it was time to go down, I already had passed the ideal point.
I reduced the power and I deployed the spoilers. With the airplane level, the speed started to fall slowly, but with the airbrakes extended to full, the deceleration was brutal. I kept initially one pitch of 20 minus degrees, to let the speed continue falling, and thus I reached 250 of Vi I found an angle that stabilized the aircraft in this speed. With speed brakes, the Mirage simply falls down disastrously from a high place of skies, with one pitch of 50° minus and an absurd descent velocity. In very little time I am already crossing FL100. I monitor the altimeter and prepare myself to come back to my normal condition of flight.
I collected spoilers and the reaction was contrary. The speed started to increase slowly. Already foreseeing what could happen if I did not modify pitch, I made a soft correction of 2 "Gs" for one pitch, keeping still 250 and a descent velocity of 2,000 feet per minute. In procedure for Runway 18 of Recife, estimating one minute to the landing, more or less, I commanded gear down. It was not my surprise when Vi the speed falling down disastrously from a high place of 250 we stop 230 in seconds! The reaction was immediate: I under corrected the power. I scared myself, I thought that it might stall and I prepared for the consequence. Finally I did not have any further problems, but I observed that with the lowered landing gear the power necessary to keep the Vapp is bigger than the power necessary to keep this speed when the airplane is smooth. I recovered the altitude of my procedure and already I am in the slot, reducing slowly for 210. You must pay much attention to the handling, mainly in the work with the power.
In this aircraft, more so that any other I have flown, the planning of the descent, and also its cautious execution, is strictly necessary. You cannot make fast changes of power; therefore thus that you reduce power of the engine, the speed falls very quickly. At the same time, it is a very powerful engine; too much acceleration used to recover the speed will take it to an absolutely uncomfortable speed. If at some time you to fall in this series of problems in an approach, there exists only one correct action to take: eject!
Another important detail that I observed in the operation of landing with the Mirage was the ease of movements with which the aircraft can come close to stalling. Observing the AOA (Angle of Attack) indicator, I see exactly that being about thirty above the speed we stall, a movement of elevon a little more accented is enough to raise the AOA to a situation of stall.
I came closer to the slot and I prepared myself for the touchdown. A little before crossing Runway 18 I was reducing throttles, bringing the speed to about 190 kts. Stabilized, I crossed the runway at this speed and with 50 or 60 feet of height. Power off, spoilers armed and rounding for one has touched soft. I observe the deceleration provoked for the air brakes and soon I apply the reversers, thus a bigger resistance to the advance of the Mirage still imposes on the slot. Finally, soft landing, is not necessary not even the aid of the brakes.
I taxi to the ramp and notice the excellent directional control of the aircraft on the ground. Well, we go now to the results of this flight. In the total distance between Natal and Recife it is of 134 nautical miles, which I covered in 23 minutes of flight. I perceive, from observing these numbers, that my flight must not have been very economical... In this time I consumed 12% of the fuel total. Making the accounts, I see that I have in my tanks a safe range of 1,116 nautical miles. Immediately I find this number excessively low for one hunting, still more for one hunting of this transport. But all good, perhaps either something it models. Mine stronger suspicion is that I lost much fuel in the ascent, and that in flights of long range and the high altitude the performance of this airplane is much better.
Tanks full, we now go taxi for Runway 18 with a destination of Anápolis. I follow the same procedure for take-off, throttles all to the front and concentration in the straight line... Speed around 170 kts and raise the nose to 10 degrees of pitch, until at 207 kts the airplane leaves the ground, stable and speeding up. Immediately I reduce the power and soon after that command the nose down. I make this ascent with same 67% of N1 that I used in the last flight. I go already turning the nose to 260, with the VOR set at 116.9, so that I go monitoring in the radial one of output of Recife, with nose to the fixture Gebit, some miles ahead. This take-off was at 16:38, and 11 minutes later I already was crossing the FL250.
Passing FL330 I felt that already a correction in the power was necessary, to keep a good ascent and to arrive fastest possible (without exaggeration) in an altitude where the cruise is more economical. I gradually increased the power for 75% of N1. At 16:58, crossing FL425, I feel that the airplane starts to lose power a little more quickly, and decide to fly in this altitude. I fear that perhaps to go up more it does not compensate the effort... Stick to the front, adjusting for a level flight, I observe the speed growing. Reaching Mach 0.86, I adjust power for 70% of N1 and go keeping this speed.
Working to keep the nose aimed at 260, I perceive, as the inertia of movement in the longitudinal axis becomes the work of a fine smoothing the nose a little more delicate. I crossed Gabit, my first fixture, at 17:10, checked the information of the aids of VOR and the NDB to confirm my position and followed in front. I looked at the OAT pointer (Outside Air Temperature) and wrote down forty degrees centigrade below freezing, a very hostile environment. I followed then to the next fixture, Balls.
When the position of the next fixture that I had estimated for the vertical line was arriving but nothing was received on the navigation radios, I started to seriously evaluate the possibility that I had totally left my path. I looked at the instrument panel and saw that it was still with the practically full fuel tank, perhaps with 85% of the total, and decided it best then to follow in route to the next fixture and, if this in was not sighted either, to return. What I found more odd was that, when I made my flight plan, I took note of two aids for position confirmation, an NDB and another VOR. Neither of the two appeared...
Perhaps the stations were off the air or my charts were outdated. Necessarily to 17:57 I was accurately in the vertical line of the Lapas fixture, perfectly in my route. I had already flown more than half of the path here, and without problems. Already I could notice that the fuel consumption of this flight was infinitely less of that of the flight that I made to Recife. Its performance in cruise is really very good, and its speed of Mach 0.86 is simply comfortable and calm. Except for the fixture at Balls, I had no more problems. Later I crossed Formosa, already it was only some ten miles to Brasilia.
I initiated then the descent, reducing the power and diving for a negative VSI of the order of one 5,000 feet per minute. Time for another one I opened for seconds the spoilers to keep the speed in the desired levels. I go to power off and the speed insists on magnifying quickly. I reduce my pitch and I perceive that at this height the glide of this aircraft can take me much more beyond Anápolis. My only alternative is to open the speed brakes to avoid having to be circulating in descending orbit. I managed all the descending until the 10,000 feet keeping 250 KIAS, and later that the aircraft stabilizes in descending attitude the flight elapses calmly, without problems.
It is night, and I will make a procedure approach for Runway 24 in Anápolis. The VOR of the aerodrome is 115.4 and the external marker for 24 is NDB 325. Adjusting the radios, we descend to 6,000 feet. Keeping the speed at 250 KIAS and already in QDM 240 the external one, I go waiting to be visual with the slot. Until I sight it to the front. The visibility is good and the approach will be calm. Thus that I arrive at the ideal point of descending, start to lower the nose and command to gear down, of this time already prepared to adjust the power without an brisk loss of speed. With a little more experience now, I see that the grid proportionate drag for the landing gear finishes being of great utility, a time that is would be very difficult to unpack this airplane in smooth conditions. I slowly bring then the aircraft for 210 KIAS, my speed of approach, and keep lined up with the slot.
Perhaps either some error in programming of the scenery that I installed in my Flight Simulator, but in the approach of Anápolis the only thing what I could see in the night was the threshold lights. The lateral illumination was simply extinguished! I evaluated the situation, still far of the airport, and concluded that it would be possible to land safely. The beeper VASIS was functioning, what it was a great aid. In the short final I slowed calmly to 200 and soon I was bringing the throttle backwards in order to find my Vref of 190 kts. I cross the threshold at the speed planned, went to power off, spoilers extended and rounding for a soft touchdown. Reversers commanded and soon I am taxiing to the ramp in Anápolis. The landing was made at 18:46, which gives 2h and 08min of flight since Recife.
Checking the instruments I see that I did not consume 50% of my fuel, I then go quickly to the Fuel menu for conferring the necessary result of this flight and see that I flew these 971 nautical miles consuming only 41% of my total fuel capacity! Making the accounts, I now estimate a range of about 2,370nm, or 4,390 km, now yes a satisfactory number for a military aircraft. If well might be suspected, flying the aircraft literally by the manual (to which I did not have access), this range still can be bigger. I am satisfied with this sequence of flights testing the performance of the aircraft, but I decide to make a local flight to analyze the aircraft in maneuvers. Already it is night; therefore this is a flight that is for the following day...
Very content with the performance of this Mirage in long flights and "low" speeds, I take an hour to force it a little. I line up the aircraft with Runway 24 of Anápolis and apply full power. I rotate the aircraft at 200 kts and keep an easy ascent, letting the speed go to 450 kts of Vi. Reaching this speed, I pull 3 Gs and place the aircraft in a pitch of 50 degrees. The sensation is incredible: the Mirage goes off in route to the sky as if it was a rocket; it slowly loses speed and arrives easily at the 24,000 feet.
I stabilize the Mirage in level flight and reduce the power to idle. The aircraft begins decelerating slowly, showing itself to be an extremely smooth and aerodynamic airplane. I only adjust the trim and wait patiently for the speed of stall, to confirm it. I try to keep the handling as delicate as possible, therefore aggressive movement below 200 kts it is easy to force stall...
I was impressed when seeing the ASI crossing 180 kts with the aircraft still in flight, until finally stall occurs, with 174 kts of indicated airspeed. The recovery is simple and calm. Stick forward, power to full and thus when the speed returns to the normal, one recovers the attitude of leveled flight. However, it is a heavy aircraft with a wing of relatively little lift, enough so that I lost 4,000 feet of altitude.
Finally I command one break for the left and after that I go down for 6,000 feet, where I intend to confer our speed of cruise at low altitude. With the airplane leveled, I speed up for 85% of N1 and the speed arrives Mach 0.95; nothing less than 576 kts of Vi!
When satisfied with this, I reduce the speed with the aid of spoilers and go for the external marker of the Runway 24 keeping a speed of 250 kts. With the smooth airplane, 37% of N1 is enough to keep this speed. Then a smooth landing and an end of the flight test.
In conclusion, this Mirage is a bonanza aircraft, of great performance and with certainty those pilots of Flight Simulator who enjoy flights of long pitch and aircraft of high performance will very much appreciate it.
Download the Mirage IIIDBR.
View Adriano Axel Pliopas Pereira's original Mirage IIIDBR
ensaio at the Fórum de Simulações Aéreas website.