F/A-18E Super Hornet | My first flight (Beta version 1999)

F/A-18E Super Hornet: My first flight (Beta version 1999)

This plane looks hot and I just want to get airborne!

Forget studying the manual, forget flight planning, forget pre-flight... how hard could it be?

What could go wrong?

OK, I'm on the runway and playing with the function keys because as I said, I don't want to muck about reading the manual first! I have that "Xmas morning" vibe!

Mmmm, F1 is the fully detailed cockpit view. The mouse scrolls the view... a bit too slowly I thought until I pressed F2. Ah... that's better, a less detailed cockpit with a wider field of view and very fast scrolling!

Now, engine start... what happens if I press the APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) key?

It starts, yay!

See? Easy!

Now left engine, spooling up nicely, then right engine, with verbal confirmation from the pilot. These clickable cockpits are great.

NOTE: I have since learned that you should start the right engine first, see ENGINE START.

Gentlemen, start your engines!" src="pics/enginestart.jpg

A smooth and silky ride with a good sensation of speed.

In the air, gear and flaps up and the Hornet is purring away nicely. It cruises at a higher speed than the F/A-18's of old, which is to be expected I guess. Now I must remember that I only loaded 1/2 fuel, intending to do a couple of circuits and then land.

Rolling terrain in Super Hornet" src="pics/valley.jpg

The land around here looks flat.. very flat.. I hope it's not all like that... no.... off there, yonder... I espy some rolling terrain. One of the absolute delights in DI's Tornado was to swoop at low level up hill and down dale, let's see if that exhilarating sense of speed is recaptured in F/A-18 Super Hornet.

Whew! 5 minutes later I was having a ball!

A smooth and silky ride with a good sensation of speed... and this on only a Pentium 233 with a Creative 3D Blaster Banshee graphics card.

My faith is restored... it is stil possible to code a good looking sim which will actually run smoothly on an AVERAGE gaming PC !

Note - in 1999-2000 an average gaming PC ran at less than 1 GIGAHERZ CPU clock speed.

Climbing at 20 degrees

Righto, out of the weeds, plug in full burner and uuuuup she goes!


I'm passing 36,000 feet and I suddenly remember two things:

  1. I didn't put much fuel in
  2. I'm totally lost!

This is accompanied by a clammy, queasy feeling in my gut.

Level off and throttle back.


5 minutes of head down work in the cockpit convinces me that I know very little about the map display.

However, based on a semi-educated guess I decide to steer for what I hope is a TACAN symbol on the map. I hadn't pushed too many buttons and so hoped that it was tuned to the beacon at the airport I took off from.

About this time, just as I'm getting very nervous and looking for the ejection handle, the voice warning system goes off "BINGO, BINGO".

OK OK, I get the message, and a press of the Master Caution Lamp shuts the computer up. Yikes, that's 3,500 lbs of fuel left. There is an adjustable bingo setting on the fuel flow indicator panel, I notice belatedly.

The virtual cockpit

I let down to about 3,000 feet and peer out of the virtual cockpit... there it is! The airbase! Or at least, an airbase!

Landing was faaaairly uneventful, although according to the merciless debrief I had touched down way too hard.

Debrief map

As you can see by the debrief map, I had ponced around the planned route a bit then headed North West and followed a road up the valley before climbing to the South East. Now that's a lesson in itself. If I had bothered to notice the general compass headings of my escapades, it would have been very simple to head back east and find the airbase visually.

On the carrier deck

The carrier deck in F/A-18 Super Hornet was by far the most detailed seen to date.

I started at the back of the crowded deck and watched in awe as Hornets taxied and took off under the direction of deck handlers. These little guys direct you verbally and with hand signals, then sprint out of the way. Mine wasn't quick enough (or I was too slow) and he was ... arrrr... sucked into the left engine.... most embarassing.

Deck crew on the carrier

Jet Blast Deflectors

The Jet Blast Deflectors are necessary to stop crew being toasted then blown overboard by the aircraft exhaust. Yes, it's a hazardous place the ol' carrier deck!

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