Redbull hangár

Redbull hangár

2012. május 5., szombat

Friends and comrades

I’ve met Zoltán Peszeki and Tibor Zsámboki at the Czechs military air show some years ago, where they arrived with a two-seater Albatrosz L-39 training-aircraft. It immediately struck me, that they have been very good friends, so it didn’t surprise me at all, that they’ve retired from the air force together recently. Zoltán as a lieutenant-colonel, Tibor as a colonel and deputy base commander. Now, as they have planty of freetime, I thought, it’s a great opportunity to ask them a bit about their legendary friendship and the exciting events of their more then 20 years career. So we sat into a good restaurant at Kecskemét and beside an excellent lunch, we talked about the old times; different jets what they flew on, aerial captures, ejecting and they also had many memories about the Soviet era in Hungary.

Text: Gabriella, photos: from the interviewees and László Szabó

At the end of the post, you will find a four-part on board video from Zoltán about a MiG-29 night flight.

My interviewees in working-clothes (Tibor on the left, Zoltán on the right)

Gabriella: When did your friendship start? Can you tie it to a concrete event?
Tibor: It started at Kecskemét Air Base at the Albatros squadron, we haven’t known each other before that. You must know about Zoltán, that there’s no man in the world with a better temper and I like to misuse it. /I guess he means, that he always takes the mickey out of Zoltán./
Zoltán:  I got to Kecskemét from Pápa Air Base in ’95 (to my own request), Tibor has just finished the Academy about that time. Taszár Air Base has come to an end in those days, hasn’t it?
T: More precisely in ’97. I went to the Academy from Taszár. It was known even then, that Pápa also doesn’t have too much time left, and I didn’t really want to go there and this is how the new position at Kecskemét came.
Z: Tibor was the unofficial deputy squadron leader already then. It wasn’t declared, but he almost led the squadron.

G: So we can say, that you were in a boss-subordinate relationship from the beginning, weren’t you?
T: Not really /Zoltán is also shaking his head/. Comparing it to the land forces, there is a quite special relationship between ranks and positons at the air force. Nevertheless there is a leader in the squadron and there is a very well srtuctured hierarchy, but order is determined rather by prestige, knowledge, recognition, than rank or age. So somebody can be in this profession for 20-30 years in vain, but it can happen, that he doesn’t have a prestige, because the lack of skills. And you cannot pretend it. Because you have to fly with the young lieutenant and the old lieutenant-colonel too and if somebody is a scamp, then it will turn out soon. So it’s not a good tactics being quiet, hoping the the others will think, that I’m a wise man.
Z: There were older pilots than Tibor, but if I had a work-related question, I turned to Tibor, because he was very good both at theory and practice.
T: Because I was the best.
Z: And he’s always been modest too.

They do even skiing together

G: Did this professional trust contribute to the development of your friendship?
T: Of course. And I could go anywhere with Zoltán and we always had fun together.
Z: I can count on him anytime. Others also promise everything, but just a few of them keep his word and Tibor is among them. When I had difficulties in my private life or when my eject happened, Tibor was that who always helped me. Didn’t play that „dude, I will tell you what”, he was behaving like a friend. People disappear from beside you in these situations, so you recognize who is a real friend and who is just a buddy. Of course we also had some debate. Tibor has a huge suggestive power.

G: Did you have work related debates?
Z: Absolutely not! Mostly because Tibor can show me new things at work, but I couldn’t.

The early years

Tibor in a MiG-21 at the '92 Taszár Air Show (photo from lászló Szabó)

G: How many years are between you?
Z: Four. I’m 45 years old, Tibor is 49.
G: That’s not too much.
Z: No, but they flew normally at Taszár, but I began with a new type of aircraft at Pápa: the MiG-23. I was flying with it for 4 years. Tibor flew with the MiG-21 and who flew well with the 21, that’s a really good pilot.
T: That time, when I entered the air force, it has turned out after some years, that the best and the most flexible training from the three fixed-wing air base is at Taszár. Everybody liked Kecskemét, because it was the best town, but the base had a pejorative attribute: operetta-regiment. It was true from a particular point of view, because people could do other things here, instead of living at the air base from morning till night and concentrate only on it. Because it is a beautiful town with many possibilities. But as for Taszár, well, even birds flew there with a three-days food pocket, because it was so far away from everything. Pápa was a transition between these two, as its location was good, but also far from everything. If you wanted to go to a normal place, for example to Győr or Budapest, you had to travel. Pápa itself is not a big thing, a typical provincial little town. But the most determining factor was, that the mentality at Pápa was very different than at Taszár. The older colleagues at Pápa were more distant, they didn’t mix with the youngsters. It was different at Taszár, because for example the officiers' club was the only place what was opened after the end of flying, so obviously the old major also drank his stress-relieving beer there, like the young lieutenant and they started to talk with each other sooner or later. And beside it, there were some men, like József Pinkóczi, who dared to let some fresh air into the ossified system. At the time, in ’89-90, the change of the regime and other things have reached the army and the strongest change happened at Taszár, where the leadership of the regiment has replaced. It was unimaginable that time – you cannot find any example for it even from the 50’s -, that a squadron leader chooses a young lieutenant to his substitute. But it was permitted to the before mentioned József Pinkóczi. And I was that young lieutenant. While Nándor Kilián /currently base commander at Kecskemét/ - whom we finished the Academy together – got to an even higher level: to the regimental cadre. It couldn’t happen at Pápa or Kecskemét, there you have to climb up on the promotion ladder.
Z: You could get the higher positions only by extiction-way there and they didn’t want to change it. Maybe they recognized it later by the example of Taszár, that reforms are necessary.
T: And we the youngsters liked to experimentalise, we were always searching for challenges. We did things with the MiG-21, what were inconceivable at Pápa or Kecskemét. For example I flew in a 12 aircraft formation, where one squad played the target and the two others the aggressor, so 2 four-aircraft formation attacked 1 four-aircaft formation. And it was amazing with that technique! Now I would say, that we stroked the tiger’s tail and I don’t know how could we get away unharmed.
Z: Huge courage was necessary to it, that’s for sure!
T: Still Taszár: young pilots participated in such things and get trust from their supervisors, which was unimaginable that time. Only old pilots were sent from other air bases to the Shield ’88 exercise where live fire maneuvres were practiced with half kilometer in front of the land forces troops’ front line. But Zsámboki 1st lieutenant and Dobay lieutenant were delegated from our base.

1990, Taszár. I. Flying Squadron with a MiG-21 in the background. Tibor is the third from the right in the middle row, above on his left Atilla Dobay who was mentioned in the interview, and the also mentioned big reformer József Pinkóczy on his left

G: I guess, it must have been a test, if you come with it.
T: Yes, but then they let us to do it.

G: And finally, you didn’t make a mass of it.
T: No, because by the time we get there, our qualification allowed it. Of course, there was dropout too. There were some mates, who couldn’t complete the required level and they were advised to leave.
Z: But there was ten times more pilot, than now, so they could choose from many.
T: As I said before, Taszár had only one weak point, it was at the end of the world. A weekend there were quite boring if you haven’t had a car. I bought the first one in ’88, although I served there from ’85.

Life with the Russians

G: So you flew even with the Russians who were stationed in Hungary then.
T: Once, in standby duty, which was only the third in my life, I got a sharp alarm. I caught a Russian MiG-23 from Sármellék above the Keszthely-bay. It was dropped up as an unidentifiable target and somewhere somebody who had this duty, alarmed the Hungarian alert and we were the closest to it at Taszár. I caught him, but told to the tower, that he is a Russian brother, he also has rockets just like I, so we shouldn’t force it. We waved to each other and both of us went home. It was just a communication misunderstanding.

Tibor in a MiG-29 in the colours of the Dongó squadron at Kecskemét

G: Did you have joint flights with them?
T: No. We didn’t have too many common issues with the Ivans, as we flew on Tuesdays, on Thursdays and on every first Friday in the month. We shared the time, because there were many air bases to the Hungarian airspace. The Russians flew on Mondays, on Wednesdays, on every second Friday and on Saturdays too, as they didn’t have a free Saturday. But never together.
G: But why not? The two countries belonged to the same military alliance and they were stationed here.
Z: It was shared like this and both party had a huge equipment. Air boxes were different that time and many of them have covered each other. The Sármellék air box was between the Pápa and Taszár air boxes for example.
T: Beside it, our qualification differed from theirs. They were loath to mix with us, they used a more modern technique. Only the yearly Warsaw Pack related exercises were common, at such occasions we went together to the Kiskunlacháza airfield for example and did some joint target flights, but we didn’t have common training flights. Only one air base was where Hungarians and Russians were together: Tököl. But even there, the Russians were at one end of the airfield and Hungarians at the other and was no transit. Russians didn’t really let their people to go to the Hungarian side. Its main reason was the same as after the WW II. That time, the members of the Red Army ascertained it shocked, as they left the Russian border, that what an orderliness and welfare are there. They didn’t want to believe it, because they were told the opposite at home. From those soldiers who were stationed here, just a few got a a two-weeks holiday at halftime of their service. Traveling home meant the half of the holiday. Usually they did their two-years service behind the fence of the base without a break and it was a special honor, when they get a leave. At those places like Zala /county very close to the western border of Hungary/, where many people has a wineyard with a little cellar, the owners didn’t lock it after a time, because the Russian soldiers who escaped from the base, burgled into them anyway. They didn’t want anything but the wine. The Russians were here as invaders, but as so interesting invaders, who closed themselves behind the fences. So you could meet Russian soldiers very seldom. 

G: Zoltán, how many years did you spend at Pápa?
Z: Four. From ’91 till ’95. But I’m from Szolnok, so later I asked to serve at Kecskemét to be closer to my home town.
T: I always told him, that there are the rotorcraft colleagues and they can hardly wait for him. But he didn’t go. :-)
Z: We worked together with Tibor at the Albatros squadron, then I get to another squadron and the Dongó /humble bee in English/ squadron has just formed at that time, where Tibor was the commander. Then I became also the member of this team. I wasn’t trained for Gripen as I was too old to it, but my former squadron the Puma /cougar in English/ bacame the new Gripen squadron and the remained MiG-29 pilots were formed the Dongó squadron.

The proper technique of formation flight

Z: We flew a lot with Tibor in a pair and as I knew how is he in flying, and on ground, I could count on him. He also knew what to expect from me. When I was on a lower level in training, he didn’t expect some particular things from me.
T: Mostly because I was anxious for the safety of my ass.
Z: It was the same in standby duty. We have just talking about it recently, that despite he was the squadron leader and the colonel, he wasn’t always the commander in flying, but the captain or the lieutenant and then he was wingmate /the pilot behind the other in a two-aircraft formation/.
T: Thus Zoltán could also practice the role of the leader. Because roles are very different in a jet pair. It requires different tasks from the the leader and the wingmate. Some say, that the wingmate’s role is the easiest, because he just has to hold the required distance and that’s all. I partly agree with it. Beginner pilots say, that it’s much harder to the pilot behind, because it needs a huge effort to hold his position manually. Although later it become a routine. But a good leader is similar to a chess player. He’s not seeing just the next step, doesn’t care only with himself, but he knows what the colleague behind him goes through. It’s similar when some cars form a convoy and go somewhere. If an idiot leads it, he doesn’t care, that the traffic light turns to red. He will slide through before it, but the next one will cross in yellow and the third one will drop back except he crosses in red. But who thinks forward, that drives slowly and although he could slide through in green, but stops, because he knows, that the third won’t get to. This is true to flying. That leader who cannot think forward, knowing that present activity what events will generate in a few seconds or minutes for example in air combat, then he is not a good leader. And this is what is difficult to teach without any practice. It’s not good when somebody is doomed to wave on somebody’s wingend forever.
Z: What is interesting beside it, that in our beginner era, it was unimaginable, that two different aircraft types fight against each other in training. But at Kecskemét, four Albatroses went against four MiG-29s. Previously, they were loath to do it, saying: for what purpose? But the Albatros could be a perfect opponent to the MiG. Sometimes the Albatros pilots could do such maneuvers, that the MiGs didn’t know where they are. Although the Albas didn’t have a locator, but nevertheless they could win sometimes. On the basis of good tactics and training anything could happen in flying.

This is a Gripen - MiG-29 joint flight, the photo was taken by Zoltán from a MiG-29
This pic was taken at the same time. Also a breathtaking snapshot about the abdomen of the Gripens

Technical gremlins

Z: But getting back to the previous topic, Tibor as a commander had rights to check a trainer or a section leader for example, if he continues the training of youths, but many times he rather said to the given person to fly two more control flights.
T: Wow, you watched me that much? I wouldn’t have thought it! :-)
Z: And the supervising of test flights also belonged to him.
T: I would rather call these check flights after reparation.
Z: It is definitely a challenge, when you have to stop one of the engines at 7.000 meters to check if you could start it again. Thanks God, it always succeeded to me, but there was a colleague who didn’t and he had to come back and land with one engine.
T: I were rather afraid of at Albatros test flight, when I had to increase the speed in such a way, that the air brake come out automatically at 0.82 Mach. I was worry if it come out. Because if you try and try and it doesn’t come out, then the whole aircraft will fall apart. That’s why you must stop trying in this case.
Z: It happened to me once in a similar situation, that the jet began to sift and tilt right and left at 0.78 Mach. I asked my colleague in the backseat if he does it, but he said no, so I knew, that there is something wrong with the plane. I tried it again, but it did the same. Two colleagues crashed exactly with this jet later… Although the drop tank was restricted at them and we flew it without any ballasts, while they had two big drop tanks and it had a concrete reason why. Actually it was a pilot fault, but who else would make an error when he sits in the cockpit? We wrote it into the record, that the jet become unstable in a certain speed range.
We sat behind each other with Tibor many times checking at the yearly check flights, when we also made the aerobatics elements.
T: Unfortunately he was melancholic for weeks after these events, because he saw how well can it be done. :-)

Overload with hangover

Z: He always had self-confidence. :-) But I also wanted to tell you what happened close to the end when we went to fly around one and a half month break after my eject. I sat into a MiG-29 behind him for some aerobatics. I have never had such sickness in an aircraft before… And not because it made my stomach turn, but if you don’t get used to the overload and the 6-9 Gs comes, then you can hardly bear it. Although I thought, that it couldn’t be a problem to me. But after the fourth or fifth overload, I recognized, that my sight getting worse and my fingers become numb from inside to outside and I couldn’t see anything. I didn’t want to tell it to Tibor that I’m sick because of my pride and old foxes like me, don’t bring a sickness bag with them.
T: Fortunately I’ve never had sickness during flight, just headache. It happened, when I took a young Albatros colleague to weather reconnaissance with a MiG-29. He drove and asked me if he could do some rolls. I said: „just do you want, but don’t shout into the mic, because maybe I will have a nap”. :-) So he began to do it: one spin left, one spin right, one spin left, one spin right, but not well, with changing angular velocity and it hurt not just my sense of beauty, but caused a headache. It was a migraine, hysterical, female headache, but I didn’t tell him to stop it, because it would have been a shame saying that „ hey mate, I’ve got a headache, please don’t do it”. But fortunately he stopped it a bit later by himself.

It's not just a pose, he really is that :-)

To tell you the truth, once I had sickness at the Russians (during our basic training), but only after flying. One of my colleagues offered me a piece of bacon what he brought from home and it was a bit rancid already. I did flying without any problem on the next day, but on the way back to the lodging, I had sickness, so I had to ask to stop the bus. It seems, that my stomach function reached exactly then the previous day bacon. That was all and it wasn’t caused by flying.
There is another story, when after a long night (I shared a rented flat with some colleagues that time and we lived a very cheerful life) we went to fly with Bagira (nickname of a former colleague), although we shouldn’t have to go to work with that hangover at all… He was in an even worse condition than me. We took off, saying that we have some fresh oxygen at least, spend the time and when the fuel runs out, we come home. But no, this idiot started to do aerobatics… It wasn’t good at all. Then he stopped it and asked if I take it over from him. I thought: yes, damn you, this will be my turn! He said after landing, that he had been nearly sick. I said: „Do you think, that I was fine?! Why did you do it?” He said: „Because it’s impossible to fly without doing some loops.”…
Z: Anyway, it is always worse to that person who sits in the back during aerobatics.
T: And it’s the worst, when the colleague does free-aerobatics and you don’t have a clue what will be next, because even he doesn’t know it.
Z: What came up to my mind regarding this topic is a flight without G-suit. The original plan was flying in pair and somebody will take photos of us from an An-26. I asked Tibor if I need a G-suit to it. He said no, because there won’t be anything particular, we just have to fly close to the big plane and that’s it, with less than 4 G. But the photography ended very early and Tibor suggested to have some fun. He turned on the afterburner immediately and having fun meant that we made 5-6 turns with afterburner with the speed of 6-700 km/h in a tight pair. I bore it till the first turn with pumping my stomach with deep breaths, but saw only the end of the two engines as they opened and closed. It wasn’t that much, around 5 or 6 G, but I felt it heavier without a G-suit.

The ideal jet pilot body

T: Actually it depends on your shape. I read about this topic and the literature says, that who can bear overload the best is who has a squat body with some overweight and who are lifting the weights in the gym instead of running and it is very beneficial when somebody is smoking. The latter related to the blood’s oxygen delivery capability and how the brain can stand the artificially produced anoxic conditions caused by smoking. The same conditions are during overload and I guess it is not new to the smokers’ brain, that it must perform with less oxygen. It was proven by the examinations of American scientists and they were surprised seeing this result. They didn’t advertise it, because it would have to go against the official trends. Anyway, I had these conditions, except that I stopped smoking in the meantime. I had a colleague, who didn’t wear a G-suit even in a MiG-29, because he bore overload that much. I realized, that me too. It happened many times, that even I put on the PPK /overload equalizer trousers/, but I forgot to connect its cable. Of course I had greying 6visual impairment, because blood flows to the lower body from the head at heavy G/, I would lie if I denied it, but always just as a passenger. Never if I pull the joystick. Unfortunately our generation wasn’t taught how to bear overload, but Gripen pilots are already trained to it, they have a centrifuge training in every fifth year. Even, their basic training starts only if they successfully passed the centrifuge training, which consists not only showing them how the 9 G feels, but they learn techniques how to handle overload. They have to bear it for 15 seconds only with pressing their lung. We learnt it by ourselves how to make tolerable with small heave-breathings.

G: Do you have any further memories from standby duty or training flights?
T: If there is an alarm in standby duty, that’s always serious. It happened once, that a commercial flight, heading from Tehran to Amsterdam, got a titbit, that a bomb is on board. Two young pilots were in standby duty with two MiG-29s at the Kecskemét base. At 07:20 in the morning, I was sitting in my car driving to the base, when the base commander called me up. He asked me to hurry and start in his office first, then to enhance the standby duty, avoiding that the two youngsters made something wrong, because taking Murphy’s rule, there must be an alarm. I threw my helmet into the trunk and as I have just parked in front of the office, I saw the young pilots rushing out in that moment. The problem was, that a code table would be necessary to the identification in this case and I planned, that I asked for one of theirs. They sat into the two jets and I into the third. They didn’t know, that I’m there, so we couldn’t discuss who is the leader. So on the radio – while we were waiting for the order and the the engine starting – I talked over the two youngsters, that one of them will stay here for reserve (this was the first standby duty for him) and the other will come with me. As we had two sets of radio, I asked him to check the code table, because if I’m asked for a code to the identification, he could tell them on the common frequency, so he can do the authentication. We had got the order, we started the engines, but my mate had a problem with his jet, so the reserve had to come with me finally in his first standby duty. But he did his task very well. We had to escort the passenger plane in rocket starting distance from the Hortobágy to Esztergom. I saw even the Slovakian MiG-29s who took it over.
G: Have you should shoot down it avoiding that it blows up above a city?
T: Of course, but its probability was negligible. But actually that was why we took of.
G: Do you know what happened to it?
T: No, but it must have been a mare’s nest.

Tibor again with an Albatros

The difficulties and beauties of air shows – ie party time!

G: I’ve met both of you at a foreign air show. Did you often attend these events?
T: Yes, but we did displays with Albatros and MiG-29 only at home, we took the jets only to static display abroad. Participating in foreign air shows is very useful anyway, because on the one hand the pilots can see the world and on the other hand travels in international air traffic as a civilian pilot, which totally differs from the daily routine. It means intensive preparation and different kind of experience.
Z: And you must pay attention very much, because the traffic is huge. You fly on 8.000 m and others are traveling back and forth 150 m above and under you. So you concentrate on keeping the altitude very much and the air traffic controllers take you over constantly. This time you have to sign in and give your position. If you deviate from the direction with 30 m, they immediately warn you. Which is not easy to keep manually, no matter how well balanced is the aircraft. It is more comfortable with the Gripen, because it has an on-board computer and a robot. The MiG-29 also had a robot, but it moved 100 m plus and minus what isn’t allowed in this situation, because as I said before, others were traveling under and above you.

G: Then traveling out was a sweaty work, but you could relax out there. Did you have a favorite air show, because the organization or the many old friends for example?
Z: Yes, the Brno Air Show. It was a small one, but located very close to Hungary and with good beer and food.
T: And the hangar parties in Brno were very famous. But my most favorite one was at the NATO Air Meet in 2003 in Poland. Every nation got an own stand, we cooked gulasch. But this wasn’t the most important, rather the precision of the Englishmen as they prepared to the party. They took incredibly much beer and champagne and everybody who was around (including me), drank champagne from a 17 liters large cup, which they won at a cricket match during the WW I. The peak of the event wasn’t this moment, but when at midnight a trolley took in a cottage piano, put it down in the middle of the hangar, then they set it fire. (Obviously they coordinated it previously with the fire service.)  A Spanish F-18 pilot sat down in front of it and he played on the flaming piano beautifully in Nomex gloves. In the meantime, as it was burning, the strings were snapped and when the Nomex gloves didn’t provide enough protection, they blew it off with a fire-extinguisher, then the trolley took it out, where the fire-brigade extinguished it properly. They can have fun, that’s for sure!

The famous jet-jump over the fence

A photo what would be nice in a poster-size too, with Zoltán and his fence-jumper in the foreground

G: Zoltán, I feel, that we must mention your memorable fence jumping eject with the MiG-29 in 2008, becuse many of my readers remember it very well.
T: The Peszeki-path. :-) As I call the little rain-water collecting channels which can be seen through the 44 route since then. /The main road beside the base at Kecskemét./
Z: There are more serious demages on the asphalt there. :-) Anyway, I thought, that I did everything properly, I didn’t know then, that I made a mistake. I did not release the gear deliberately. Till 10 AM, while they rewieved the black box and Tibor called me up, that my gear wasn’t out, I was reflecting upon what caused it. My first imagination was, when I heard the rumbling noise above the airstrip, that the gear touched the ground with a quite high 340 km/h speed and maybe it caught the tyre, where the canvas layer was less and it blew out. Because who had a puncture knows this special noise. I said: „Oh my God, what will I get for it from the commander!” I couldn’t land already, because I left the middle of the airstrip, so I thought, that I would goes on. It was my original plan anyway, because I didn’t want to do a touch & go or anything. I wanted to go on at 1 meter, but I made a mistake: I didn’t release the gear and I approached with the same angle of attack if I would have released the gear and this 1 meter was missing when the engine has touched the ground. The difference of approaching with released and intended gear is around 1 meter. When I was in this situation, I thought the gear was out and I go through on 1 meter high. As for that day, I was after a successful air combat against an Albatros, flying lasted till 4 PM. I thought at first, I land as soon as possible, but I’ve changed my mind in the meantime. Because I thought, that while the Albas come back, I do a difficult weather landing twice, but then I thought, that I come in now and then I land on tight circle. I had a little difference on my jet in the meantime, I came from a higher profile, the navigation system didn’t switched as I expected it. But the most important is, that I had lack of time and I didn’t released the gear, but I reported, that my gear is out and the wing flap too.

The previous pic more closely

Meanwhile I was approaching to the ground and then, arriving with this profile, the drop tanks left two long black stripes on the ground from 600 meter and the right-side engine also. The latter has damaged so unluckily, that the pipeline system of the fuel tank has destroyed and the engine shift to tight cross section in this case, so the thrust has become be less. I would have gone on, but I hadn’t got thrust. I don’t want to go into details deeper, but I reached that point, where the jet can’t be controlled anymore. I couldn’t bank it either, although I would have had enough speed to it. I switched anything in vain, the aircraft started to lift and then sink and I’ve realized, that I cannot continue flying with this jet. But I thought, that even if this plane fall down, it would stop till the end of the airstrip. I ejected and the worst was, that I couldn’t see my jet. I asked the ambulanceman who arrived there, where it is. He asked it in the radio and the controllers in the tower said, that they don’t know, but something is smoking at the other side of the road. It has turned out later, that it has jumped away from a manhole cover after slipping on the ground and because it’s an aircraft, then it has took off, leaving its tail one meter of the outside wall of the base and it slipped through the road unfortunately.
T: It is similar, when you play ducks and drakes on the water’s surface. And in this case, air can raise the wings and enough lift is generating to take off. It cross the road leaving the fence without any harm.
G: But it would have gone through it, if it hadn’t jumped away on the manhole cover, would it?
T: Like blazes!
Z: This jet is 18 tons.
T: And if a vehicle would have gone there, they hadn’t had any chance.
Z: I had luck. I don’t think, that we would talk here otherwise. You need fortune to these kind of things. You need luck to flying generally, because you never know what will happen. Maybe a technical failure, maybe human mistake, anything. We who survived, had a huge luck, that’s for sure.
T: Yes, I’m also among the lucky ones, because I’ve never had any serious malfunctions.
Z: I had. Even an Albatros has stopped under me, but we restart it in the air. It happened with a MiG-29 too during test flight. It was a technical failure. We didn’t talked about it, because it should have ended with punishment, but it wasn’t our goal, but to have the jet repaired and use it as soon as possible.
T: It was a banal, minor failure. In a jet with dual control, usually the pilot in the front cockpit handles everything and throttles can be separated, that you take over the control from the back cabin, so who sits in front cannot control. But usually we didn’t do it. However, on the occasion of a flight, there was a problem with the throttle in the front cabin and Zoltán who sat there asked the colleague in the back to take over the control, as he couldn’t switch off the afterburner. He took it over, switched off and pull it down to idle power. There are only stop crews at the transmission controller lever and if you pull it down to idle power, then it can be adjusted with these stop crews to have really idle power instead of switching off the engines. Unfortunately these crews were adjusted badly and you could pull over on that position what would have provided idle power, so it stopped both engines. It happened at 18.000 m. Theoretically it is not allowed to restart on this height, but you have to go under 12.000 m, because the conditions there are better to it.

The winner of the Darth Veder alter ego contest: Zoltán :-)

Z: We were lucky, because the flame didn’t die out, as switching off and on happened so fast, so the engine rolled on on idle power. After this event, Tibor called us to account heavily and the technicians too, that what the hell did we do. Finally we didn’t get a punishment, instead we talked over it to learn the lesson from it.
The same happened with an Albatros, except that it had only 1 engine and  there was also a problem with the throttle and the idle power wasn’t idle power. Its automatics perceived, that it is switched off. So the engine obviously stopped when we pull it down to idle, but we had 1.000 m and then we went on from 20 m. When we were at 300 m, the engine worked already, but with a speed of 350 km/h you must sink, because you mustn’t get height, because the ground is very close. If you go on from 5 m, then from there, but it is important to go on safely. So we successfully restarted the engine and then we raised to 1.500 m, came home to Kecskemét, but on the glide path, when I pulled it down to idle, slowly reducing the speed it stopped again. Actually we landed with a stopped engine, but we were above the air strip, when it happened. The committee checked it up and it has turned out, that it was our fault.
T: Because if the engines stops at this height, there’s no restart, you have to eject.
Z: Yes, you must do it under 1.500 m, but we didn’t know its reason, we had enough height, it is still possible to eject at 300 m, so we had time to see about what caused it and finally we restart it successfully. I think that this is the important. Later the same malfunction was explored at three other jets as they reviewed all. Fortunately they were repaired then.

Here comes the fourth-part video from Zoltán what I promised at the beginning. (Actually it has more part, but I tried to choose the most beautiful ones where the light conditions good as they landed in dark at the end, so you wouldn’t see anything from it.) It’s not a HD quality, but I guess, that the feeling absolutely comes through.

Future plans

G: Although you retired already, but still young, so I guess, still have desire to do something and you wont spend the following years rocking in a chair.
T: Actually we are reservists.
G: ??? So they can call you up for service if most of the the active jet pilots come down with the flu for example?
T: Theoretically yes – but not for standby duty. Although my medical pass paper and my jet pilot license are still valid. But it is not likely. The role of the reservists is not cleared yet.
G: And do you want to work together again at all or it was enough of each other after so many years? :-)
T: Yes, we have the intention of doing it, but nothing concrete momently.

As far as I know, this photo was taken at the farewell party of the MiG-29 type. Tibor and Zoltán are in the company of lieutenant-colonel Géza Takács

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