The O-2ā€™s (Less Than) Spectacular Performance

submitted by: Alva Leon Matheson

If I remember right, we took off from NKP on the night missions with two crewmembers and four weapons stations and at about 4,800 pounds. The maximum gross weight for landing was 4,400 pounds. If you lost the rear engine on takeoff you had a negative climb rate of 350 fpm and if you lost the front engine it was a negative 150 fpm. I am not positive about those numbers, but I think they are close.
During my last few months at NKP I got to fly some FCF (Functional Check Flight) mis- sions. It was part of the checklist to shut down both engines, one at a time, to ensure the propel- ler would feather. With one person on board, no external stores and less than the full 128 gallons of gas, the airplane would just maintain level flight at 90 knots. I got to fly a couple of airplanes after they had been bent in over ā€˜gā€™ maneuvers. Part of the checklist was to take the airplane up to the red line airspeed of 192 knots. Obviously, the only way to get an O-2 going that fast was down- hill. We started at 6,000 feet MSL (above Mean Sea Level) and nosed it over with full power. One day I was performing this checklist item, at approximately 152 knots the airplane smartly rolled over on its back, totally against my express wishes. After regaining control of the airplane, and when my breathing started again, I took the airplane back to maintenance to tell them what had happened. They were not impressed, but I did find out that they had no way of telling if a bent airplane was in rig or not. They just had to guess every time and they had to bend those little fixed trim tabs on the flight control surfac- es. After discovering that gem of information I thought I would give them a little incentive to try their best to do it right before I took the airplane up again. I told the maintenance chief that who- ever did the re-trim would be flying along with me to observe his workmanship first hand. They all thought that was a great idea. Over half of the guys volunteered to go flying. The next one was a successful FCF flight.