FMA IA 58 Pucará

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2011. július 15.
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Trials of the British Pucará

Following the Falklands war, a number of Pucaras were transported to the hangar where I worked, at what was then the A&AEE at Boscombe Down. Amongst them was A-515, which arrived in August 1982. The intention was to fly a Pucará against a range of British aircraft types it might encounter, were hostilities
ever to flare up again. We used the other airframes as spares sources to support this single airworthy aircraft, which was allocated the military serial ZD485.

Lacking manuals and logbooks, the project was cleared for a conservative flight test programme, limited to just twenty-five hours. Under the direction of our supervisor, we set about inspecting the aircraft to bring it to an acceptable standard for flight. We were particularly impressed with the quality of the airframe engineering - most of the internal skin frames and stringers were anodized, which was reminiscent of German standards. The wings had been removed to transit the aircraft back from the Falklands, and that necessitated re-rigging the flying controls. There were no manuals to work from, and so general airframe principles were applied by our supervisor.

The aircraft had been shipped back to UK as deck cargo, and nobody thought to blank any of the normal openings in the aircraft, with the result that the port Astazou engine had a badly corroded centrifugal compressor, the aft end of which was not accessible. This caused lower power output on the port engine, which was unacceptable for flight, so a method had to be found to bring the engine power up to an acceptable level. Because of a total lack of spares, and budgetary constraints, the engine could not be stripped to clean the compressor. T he method that was finally chosen was to wash the compressor with ground walnut shells - a procedure sometimes used on helicopter engines. A washing rig was manufactured in the workshop to fit on the engine, so that when running, it was possible to get a smooth flow of the shells through the engine, without causing the engine to flame out. Typically, about a pound of shells were passed through at a time. The process had to be repeated a number of times to restore sufficient engine power, although we never achieved the output level of the other engine.

Finally, we painted ZD485 in a fresh camouflage scheme, and the aircraft started taxi trials on 28th February 1983. It flew again on 28th April, piloted by Sqn Ldr Russ Peart. It flew from grass strips, as well as the usual runway. It flew dissimilar air combat trials against a Phantom, Harrier and a helicopter. The results were predictable - in the case of the F-4, it had to be caught on the first pass, otherwise it would continually turn inside the Phantom. But against the Harrier, which could slow right down and viff in behind, it was extremely vulnerable. We concluded that the Pucará would have been lethal against helicopters, carrying the four machine guns as it did, and with the potential to fit an under-belly gatling cannon, it would have made a particularly formidable helicopter hunter. Of course, both the Harrier and helicopter scenarios had already been played out in the conflict the year before.

That might have been the end of it, but my enterprising colleague attended the Paris Air Show in June 1983. On the basis that if you don’t ask, you don’t get, he went to the FMA stand, and explained our continuing technical problems. He was immediately supplied with all the technical information we needed, and was delighted with the friendly response from the Argentine team. Perhaps they were hoping for a follow-on sale!

ZD485 went on to turn heads at the International Air Tattoo at Greenham Common on 23/24 July 1983. It returned to Boscombe Down, and shortly after that, the authorized twenty-five flying hours of the Pucará evaluation were complete. On 9th Sept 1983, Pucará ZD485 took its final flight to Cosford, where it was later restored in Argentinian colours and markings.



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2013. június 30.
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Épp a napokban néztem rá a Pucarara, mikor a Super Tucanorol ment az álmodozás valamelyik topicban.
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