‘In many ways, it is your first solo. You see, they only ever made one two-seat A-10, and that one is sitting in a museum,’ Lynn Taylor, former A-10 pilot.
The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II is a single-seat, twin turbofan engine, straight wing jet aircraft developed by Fairchild-Republic for the US Air Force (USAF). The Warthog or Hog (as the A-10 is dubbed by its aircrews) is specially designed for close air support of ground forces.
One experimental two-seat A-10 Night Adverse Weather (N/AW) version was built by converting an A-10A. The N/AW was developed by Fairchild from the first Demonstration Testing and Evaluation (DT&E) A-10 for consideration by the USAF. It included a second seat for a weapons system officer responsible for electronic countermeasures (ECM), navigation and target acquisition. The N/AW version did not interest the USAF or export customers.
Besides the A-10 N/AW, the USAF investigated the conversion of a limited number of A-10As into two-place trainer aircraft. These trainers were to be designated A-10B, but the program was canceled before any aircraft were modified.
Hence when a pilot flies a Hog for the first time, the sortie is made by means of a standard single-seat A-10.
‘It’s a lot like the first time you solo in a plane. And in many ways, it is your first solo. You see, they only ever made one two-seat A-10, and that one is sitting in a museum [it now resides at Edwards Air Force Base’s Flight Test Center Museum],’ says Lynn Taylor, former A-10 pilot, on Quora.
‘So, the first time you actually fly a Hawg, you’re solo.
‘You do have an instructor sitting in another jet just over your shoulder, but it’s all up to you in the cockpit. There’s no one else to bail you out if you screw something up.
‘Fortunately, the Hawg is a fairly easy jet to fly. (It’s the mission that makes life interesting.) Plus, you’ve already had about a year and a half of flight instruction before strapping on a Hawg, plus an exhaustive run of A-10 ground school and simulator training.
‘You’ve been pretty well prepared for it by the time you line up on the runway, quadruple check all of the gauges, take a deep breath, push the throttles up, check the gauges one more time at full throttle, then release the brakes.
‘I’ve been in an F-16 on takeoff. It’s not like that.
‘I’ve been in an old pickup when you stomp on the gas. It’s more like that.’
‘The jet picks up speed as it trundles down the runway. You glance down at the airspeed as the dial winds up, looking for the magic number to ease back on the stick and coax your steed into the sky.
‘Gear up. Flaps up.
‘And you’re off!
‘From there, it’s off to the practice area to get a feel for how the crate handles. Nothing too exotic on your first run, but enough to start learning how she responds to control inputs. IIRC, you get maybe half an hour or so to run it through some basic maneuvers.
‘Then it’s back to base for the really exciting part… landing.
‘I forget if they let you fly the overhead pattern on your first time out of the chute (less likely), or if you do a straight-in to have more time to figure out how to land the thing without maneuvering a new jet at the same time (more likely).
‘Either way, you run the checklist, double check the landing gear. (You really don’t want to be “that guy” who lands gear up on your first day.) And then bring ’er in to land.’
‘You taxi back to parking, shut ’er down, and spend the rest of the day grinning from ear to ear.
‘Because you just soloed in a jet that no one… and I mean no one… ever gets to just “ride along” in. (Which is kind of a shame, ‘cuz then we could show members of Congress just what that baby can do, and then it would live forever.)
‘TLDR: It’s pretty cool.’
Photo credit: Tim Felce (Airwolfhound) via Wikipedia and U.S. Air Force