A-37, Flying and Operating

The A-37 had its own unique characteristics.   Some of them were very interesting.
By Dennis Selvig

The Sky Blue DragonFly
The Air Force wanted to find out if ground fire was aimed or just random shooting into the air (barrage).  They decided to paint a few of the A-37s in a sky blue (almost powder blue) color to see if the paint job would make any difference in the number of hits the bird took.  They always paired the sky blue aircraft with a regular (camo) painted bird so they could have a good comparison.  This was all very scientific.

There were several lessons learned from this exercise.   First, it didn't make any difference what color the aircraft was.  The sky blue ones picked up just as many hits (barrage fire).  Second, it usually came back with all it's bombs on board because the FAC's couldn't see it and wouldn't clear it to drop.   Third, the wingman better be flying it because if you scheduled it as lead it often came back alone.  The wingman couldn't see it to rendezvous after the strike.

Those intake screens
The engines had screens that covered the intakes when the plane was taxiing.  The idea was to protect the engines from FOD, since the intakes were so close to the ground.  As soon as you got airborne and pulled up the gear handle, the screens would swing down and you would have an extra shot of thrust due to the restriction being removed from the intake.  This was all fine and dandy except for formation take offs.  You had to put the screens down manually after you lined up so that you wouldn't get out of synch as each of you lifted off.  It was better when there was no confusion about who had the lead.

The screens did come in handy now and then.  My roommate was in the arming area one rainy night on a scramble from Bien Hoa.  When the crew chief showed him the arming streamers to confirm they were all out, the chief stood a little close to the aircraft and his poncho got sucked up against the left screen.   Not to worry, after the RPM sagged enough the vacuum lessened and the chief was able to pull his poncho free and the war resumed.

Unpressurised Cockpit
The coolest thing about the unpressurised cockpit was that you got to smell gun smoke when strafing.  There were some disadvantages however.   For instance, when air refueling from a leaking basket, the JP-4 would run up the windshield and drip through the canopy seal onto your flight suit. 

The Blast Deflector
The gun's blast deflector was built to vent the gun gasses straight up.  The idea was to keep them from going into the right intake and causing corrosion problems.  This made night strafing a little interesting.  When you squeezed the trigger you got a very bright series of flashes about six feet away at your right front quarter.  It was bright enough to ruin your dark adaptation and make it hard to see well enough to recover the plane.  The solution was to close one eye when you shot (I always shot better that way anyhow), then open up that eye when you release the trigger and recover the plane using your "good" eye.  Yankee ingenuity can lick any problem.1a37b.BMP (75478 bytes)

The Armament Panel
The A-37A model was famous for getting weapons released in various strange ways.  Sometimes it was the pilot's fault, sometimes it was the panel's.  In any case, if you managed to drop everything off one side while retaining everything on the other wing, you had your hands full recovering the plane.  It usually took both hands on the stick and the stick as far to one side as you could hold it to keep the wings somewhat level and pull out.

The Emergency Engine Ignition Switch
Crew Chiefs liked to have fun too.  They figured out that one could lift up the red cover guard on the Emergency Ignition Switch, turn it from NORMAL to OFF, and then lower the cover carefully without flipping the switch back to NORMAL.

This would make the engine start sequence quite a puzzle for most pilots.  Lack of a light-off created a real funny look on the pilot's face as he scanned the gauges and switches to find the cause of the problem.  He would usually slap the red cover down without fully appreciating the consequences of his action.   The moaning and groaning of the engine, the clock-wise rotation of the EGT gauge, and a 20 foot long flame out the back would usually cause a red tinge on his face that matched the color of the flame.

Working with a FAC that never worked the A-37 beforeoscar2.gif (8692 bytes)
Many FACs liked to orbit over the target.  It made it easy to drop the nose and put in another mark or observe the hits and correct for the next fighter.  The fast movers would fly under the FAC during their pullout, but the Dragonfly would pull up so quickly that it came through the FAC's altitude as it crossed over the target.  Of course the lacking in a FAC's tactical experience would only become evident as you flipped off the Master Arm and looked up to see a windscreen full of Oscar Duck.

More Fun With the FAC
Rap - "Rap 21 in hot."
Rustic - "No joy Rap.  Where ya in from?"
Rap - "Straight up."
Rustic - "AHhhhhhhh..... . . . . .   OK, cleared hot."
(Strafing from a loop sure was fun).

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