Mirage pilot interview, Part 6: The Immortal Mirage

Untitled-8Now a crack aerobatic pilot, Gonzalo O’Kelly was once one of the best fighter pilots in the Spanish air force. During his time in the Ejército del Aire he flew the Mirage III, a formidable and beautiful fighter of French origin. In the sixth and final part of our Mirage special he summarises the immortal Mirage. 

Which three words describe the Mirage? 

“Reliable, stable and difficult to master.”

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Which equipment did pilots want on added to the Mirage III? 

“Every Mirage III pilot agrees on what we needed to improve our aircraft:

  • A more powerful engine was first
  • Flaps and slats to shorten take off and landings and allowing for turning dogfighting.

– Better radar and systems.

– Reduce weight.

In summary, we wanted a Mirage 2000.”

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How well-trained and equipped was the Spanish Mirage force? 

“Very well. Between 1970 and 1975, every pilot asking to be assigned to 11th Wing needed 1,500 jet flying hours to be accepted. The experience level was high.

When they began to assign fresh lieutenants, and mine was the second group, we had to go through an Initial Training Course comprising about 100 flight hours — on each and every type of mission with special attention to air combat.

We used to log a lot of hours in those years, never less than 200 hours per year, with many months 35 hours or more. I flew two missions per day many times.

Every pilot took two weeks of simulator practices per year. We went to France in six-pilot groups and had six simulator hours each.

So the training was superb, though we could have done more training with dissimilar types and attended more exercises. The only squadron exchanges we had were with French units, flying the Mirage III or F-1, so nothing new.”

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