January 18, 2023
Today in Microsoft Flight Simulator, I’m flying the Bede BD-5J, the world’s smallest jet, famous for being flown by Roger Moore as James Bond in Octopussy.
The BD-5J is very popular at airshows, so I’m flying it today out of Oshkosh (Whitman Regional Airport, KOSH) in Wisconsin.
The BD-5 was designed in the late 1960s by Jim Bede, an ambitious thinker remembered (when he died in 2019) as someone who “made lots of promises, convincingly, if you ask around, and even delivered on a few of them.”
The BD-5 was a kit plane, to be sold for about $3,000 (then the price of a Volkswagen) and assembled by enthusiasts at home. It’s 4 feet 2 inches tall and less the 14 feet long, with a wingspan of 22.5 feet.
Some versions had a push propeller engine in the back, but the BD-5J had a jet. But after thousands of people putting down a $200 deposit, and receiving partial kits, Bede was unable to find a suitable jet engine.
After several years of struggling, the company went bankrupt in 1979, leaving customers stranded with half-built planes.
But the BD-5J’s popularity got a huge boost in 1983, when it was featured in the opening sequence of the James Bond movie “Octopussy”. (The plane does NOT have fold-up wings, as portrayed in the movie).
So a bunch of people completed their BD-5Js with whatever engine they could get their hands on, and they became very popular doing aerobatic stunts at airshows.
The problem is that a lot of these engines tended to either flame out or melt or set the BD-5J on fire, leading to a horrific accident rate.
It is estimated the 15% of all flights in a BD-5J have ended in fatalities. Yeah, there’s no decimal point there. 15 out of 100 flights.
So I’m sort of hoping that today that I’ll be in the lucky 85%.
In the sim, at least, the BD-5J is incredibly agile. It rolls on a dime, and recovers immediately. You can roll roll roll and then stop when you want.
But at first, I did find it difficult to do a loop. Despite starting with a dive to maximum speed, it would stall out at the top, and I’d end up doing a hammerhead or an Immelmann at best. Love the smoke showing your trail.
Despite this, it was always easily recoverable, though the stall horn went off a lot.
Whoosh! That’s a wild ride.
I finally figured out, though, that the key to a successful loop was turning on the fuel pump. That way you – barely – made it over the top.
In the sim, at least, it’s one hell of a fun airplane.
But the fact is that a lot of very experienced airshow pilots have been killed flying in it, in real life.
Time to bring her home.
Entering the pattern to land at Oshkosh.
In the sim, at least, the BD-5J gains speed easily when the nose is down and descending. The first time, I came in too high and too hot and had to go around.
The next time I was right on the money: about 85 knots. You can’t flare and bleed off much speed, you have to fly it onto the runway.
I don’t know if I’d get in one of these suckers in real life, though. I’ll leave it to James Bond.
Hope you enjoyed a fun ride in the Bede BD-5J, the world’s smallest jet.