Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Week 41 & 42

Week 41

I have not written for a while, and it’s been pretty busy. Flying is going really good. We started our Air Drop portion of training and I like it a lot. It is pretty much just flying a low level, except you do it in formation with another plane. You also do a simulated drop where both planes climb 500’ and slow down to 150 knots at the same time. Once we drop our "cargo" we do the escape where we descend back down and accelerate to clear the area. This past week I flew every day and sometimes twice a day which brought me to now where I have my last checkride in pilot training on Monday. I am so excited to be almost finally finished. It is such a good feeling knowing I am so close. I just hope I don’t screw it up. Friday night we had our drop night. They hold it at the Officer's Club and our theme was the Price is Right. We all wore big yellow name tags and it was way crowded. They call you up one at a time in front of a big screen where they flash a slide of you and some info about you. Then we played a plinko game that was rigged for the chip to fall where your going to go. It was pretty cool and even cooler when I got my plane. My future lies in the KC-10 to Travis which was our number one choice. We are very excited to go to California and start the rest of our lives. It worked out pretty good and almost everyone got a plane that was in their top 5 choices. There were a few disappointed people, but I guess that is inevitable.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Week 40

Week 40

This was a pretty normal week of flying. I am enjoying these flights more and seem to be a little less stressed. We did not find out our drop this week because of the holiday, but I am told should be early next week. I really hope they have what we want. We took our last EPQ that counts for anything and our flights that go into our class standing stop next week. Something new we did start this week was the air refueling portion of our training. We train for both the tanker and the receiver parts. For the tanker I think it is a lot more mentally tasking, but for the receiver you really have to be on your game as far as flying is concerned. The tanker is responsible for the majority of the rendevous. He coordinates with air traffic control and the receiver to ensure timing and safety of the mission. The tanker also has to do in flight calculations to find out the closure speed of the two aircraft, offset, turn radius, and distance to begin the turn to roll out 1-3 miles in front of the receiver. How it works is like this, imagine a long straight line with the beginning called the initial point (IP) and a control point (CP) at the other end. The objective is to be refueling by the CP at an exact time. The tanker orbits the CP and waits for the receiver to call IP inbound. Once that happens the two fly right at each other. That is where the calculations come into play. You usually start your turn back around between 16-19 miles to roll out in front of the receiver headed towards the CP. Once both are going that way the receiver pretty much takes over from there and begins closing the distance until you are in a Pre-contact position with about 12 feet separation between the two aircraft. Then the tanker clears him for contact. The receiver closes the gap to about 3-5 feet and begins the simulated refueling. You have to stay in that position for a minute. It is pretty hard and even harder when the tanker has to turn. I do like the challenge of it though. Next week I am scheduled for my first formation air drop. That should be way cool.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Week 38 & 39

Week 38

This week was pretty good. Monday felt like a week by itself. I had my Navigation checkride which is suppost to be the hardest checkride I will ever have in the flying world. So, needless to say I was pretty worked up about it. You all know me as mr. anxiety, well it definitely showed for this. I think I used the restroom atleast four times before I even went down to brief. I am sure you all know that I tend to talk “a little fast” when I get nervous…you should have heard me during the initial brief, I sounded like the micro-machine guy. My check pilot was pretty cool though, he commented on my ability to talk fast and told me not to be so nervous. He did say that I set a record for finishing the entire brief (which normally takes an hour) and the general knowledge part (which normally takes 45 minutes) in only 20 minutes. The check ride itself went really well. I was happy with the way I flew and ended up only getting a one downgrade excellent. The downgrade was for my low level entry which was a bit rushed due to weather, if only I could control the weather. It really was not my fault, but if I argued that he would probably just say “fine, I will give the downgrade to you for something else.” I was very excited for that score. I am tied with 3 other people for the best score in the class. The rest of the week was pretty uneventful. I started formation flying which gets us ready for the airdrop and air refueling portions. We don’t fly near as close as we did in the T-6 and its not really as cool. But, I enjoy it more then shooting a bunch of approaches. I am looking forward to the other stuff. There is only one more class to graduate in front of us. I cant believe how close it is. I should even find out what is in my drop in about two weeks…how exciting.

Week 39

This week went by pretty fast. Started and almost finished formation, and now all that is really left is air drop and refueling. I only have 9 flights left of pilot training. I am so excited to be almost done. Formation flying in the T-1 is a lot different then T-6’s. You are not as close and it is more difficult because the T-1 does not move nearly as quickly as the T-6 does, so you almost have to know what the other guy is going to do and act before he does. The weather this week was ok for the most part. There was a few times that I had to dodge clouds (we are not allowed to go in them while in formation), but to me that makes it more fun. Another thing is that the T-1 wants to fly and does not slow down very easily. It is a very sleek airplane and even the speed brakes do not help much. It is pretty funny to watch some guys who just don’t have the feel try to rejoin on the wing. They carry a lot of airspeed and just go screaming past us. This Friday we should find out what aircraft and what locations will be available for our drop (we don’t find out exactly what we get until sept. 14). Tommorrow I have my very last SIM in UPT, hooray!

Week 36 & 37

Week 36
This was a pretty cool week of flying. I am enjoying the low levels we get to fly during this phase of training. We fly them to train for air drops we are going to make behind enemy lines. We fly a random ground track at a specific airspeed to arrive at our target on time to the second. We do this at altitudes below 500’ to avoid enemy radar detection. It is cool because of the vast amount of calculations you use to get there. You have to factor in pressure altitude, airspeed, winds and magnetic variation of the earth. By far the coolest is zooming along almost at ground level. This last low level I did was awesome! There was one point where a herd of deer were in our flight path, so we buzzed them and scared the pebbled crap out of em’. There is also a point on this particular low level referred to as Star Wars Canyon because it resembles the final run on the death star flying through the trench with Darth Vadar in close trail. It even has a canyon face at the end where you have to pull up out of the trench. Flying through the canyon at over 300MPH all I could think about was “almost there…almost……there..he’s too close..bwahhhhh!!” That is when I released our photon torpedoes and destroyed the death star. I also did another VFR leg this week (that is where we fly at 3000’ above the ground and navigate based only on ground references). The weather here in Texas lately has been overly active with thunderstorms and rain, which makes flying very interesting, but I love it! While navigating based on ground references I also had to navigate inbetween huge cells of thunderstorms and rain. From the air they look like huge grey columns where you cant see past. Our plane is equipped with weather radar and storms like that get huge returns. At times you can see the lightning jumping from one cloud to the next. Cumulonimbus clouds are built by continuous updrafts which means that these clouds produce severe winds toward their cores, which ultimately makes them elevators for airplanes. There has been a few times where we were forced to fly into some of these clouds and what a ride it is. It reminds me of the Tower of Terror the way it takes your stomach away. One time the cloud raised our altitude almost 500’.

Week 37

Its been awhile since I have written. Not a whole lot has been going on. I have my navigation checkride on Monday. I think I am ready. There is a lot of stress on me to do good on this ride. It almost seems that the rest of our lives will be determined by one checkride. If I do really good I will secure my spot in the top of the class and get what I want at drop night, if not then who knows what I will get. Larissa as always has no worries and always says I will do just fine, but my being mr. anxiety and with the million things that can go wrong on every flight am still nervous. Flying this past couple of weeks has being going good. I have been doing the usual flying all over texas and occasionally to the neighboring states. We went and visited the aliens at Roswell, NM a couple of times. The highlight of recent flying to me is still the low levels. I really enjoy flying with my hair on fire super low to the ground. We scared the crap out of a trucker on one of my routes the other day. Our turn point took us right over interstate 10 and it just so happened he was coming right at us. So my IP told me to have some fun and I dumped the nose at him and dove right at him. We were so close I could see the driver. Last Thursday we went on an out and back to Laredo. Pretty much the only thing there is a Walmart and a Fuddruckers. We had decided enroute that we would eat there and I told everyone about the challenge. They all thought it was funny how much food it was. When we got to the restaurant and I started to order they all issued me the challenge again. I felt like marty on back to future when they called me chicken, so I had to accept. Luckily, I was not the one flying back, and there is a bathroom on the airplane just incase. I was smart this time and did not get the chili fries, and it was still harder then I remember. I did get it all down and impressed everyone. They did not have shirts there but I do have a picture on the wall. I cant believe how close I am to being done. After my checkride I will only have 14 more flights left in pilot training. That equates to about 3 to 4 weeks of flying left. I am excited to be complete and get my wings. Looking back this has been one of the longest and shortest year of my life.

Week 34 & 35

Week 34

Flying this week was pretty normal, nothing too cool to report. I did fly down to Corpus Christi to shoot some approaches. The airfield is pretty much right on the harbor which means I got to fly over the ocean. That was pretty neat, especially because we were really low and got to see some big ships up close. We also saw the airplane called “the guppy” which NASA uses to transport shuttle parts in. Also, I did a couple VFR legs (navigating solely on charts) this week which were ok. Weather stopped us from doing the really cool ones, but there was some stuff to see.

Week 35

Its been a fun couple of flights recently. I went on my cross country in the T-1 to exciting Oklahoma City, Fort Worth, and Louisiana. The flying we did primarily at night, but on the first leg out we did a low level which was awesome. We flew through a canyon at less than 300’ and going over 300 knots. It was just like independence day, except that we did not have aliens shooting at us. We flew primarily at night which I love. It is so pretty to look at all the lights and see the stars when you are above all the city lights. It is so calm and peaceful. You don’t get near as much updrafts because there is far less heat dissipation at night. When we stopped in Oklahoma city we were greeted with a rousing square dance and everyone was singing the famed “Oklahoma” song. Of course I joined in and showed them how we do it back it “Oohtah.” We stayed in a 5 star hotel which gave us a huge discount because we were military. The showers were all tile and they had flat screen plasma T.V.’s in every room. Every room was also equipped with temperpedic mattresses, but I still like mine better. I felt just like a famous person without all the money. That night a huge storm rolled through and flooded parts of the city. It was cool to watch from 8 stories up and laugh at all the cowboys floating away. Luckily, it cleared up later and we made it back to the airport ok. We had to wait until dusk to takeoff and got to see some pretty cool stuff. There was a completely restored WWII T-6 and the pilot let us sit in it. He said it was the only one in existence that had all of its original equipment. It was neat to see what they used to train in and how far aviation has come. When we took off and the sun went down we flew around the line of thunderstorms that went through OKC. It was cool to see all the flashes at night.

Week 32 & 33

Week 32
I passed my checkride and did really well. I still think I could have done better, but I will take the score. Of course with my luck I got the crappy check ride pilot and honestly with how I did I think I should have gotten a much better score. It’s hard because everything is such a competition now where everyone is fighting for the plane and location of their choice. On Friday I went on my first out and back. This is where we fly to a location, do a bunch of instrument approaches, land and eat lunch, and then fly back to Laughlin. These are cool because I get the opportunity to eat lunch at a bunch of really cool places.

Week 33

Pretty much more of the same this week. Flying was pretty much standard except for Wednesday. A huge system of thunderstorms developed in Texas and of course the Air Force’s fly no matter what mentality meant that we were pretty much going to ignore the fact that they were headed towards Laughlin. We changed our plan 3 different times finally deciding on El Paso as our outbase. Also because of the weather we switched to only flying me that day, so I logged 3.2 hours by myself (which is a lot). When we stepped to the jet we were told that we had about 15 minutes until they went stop launch and were not going to let any airplanes leave. So, we did about the fastest ground ops in history and taxied in only 10 minutes. When we were holding short ready for takeoff they asked us to be a weather ship (basically fly into the storm and find out how bad and which direction it is moving). You know me, I was all for it. It was way cool seeing the thunderclouds from that close. They were so tall and dark. It rained like crazy and my partner got all kinds of pics. It was a good flight and the weather in El Paso was good. When we decided to go home we realized that the line of thunderstorms had blocked almost any route we could use to get home. We were actually on our way to diverting to Midland, Tx when air traffic control said there was a break near the border. So, we flew pretty much a mile from the border back to Laughlin. It was really neat seeing the fence along the border and the hundreds of Mexicans that were jumping, swimming, digging and running across to the other side (ha ha). On Friday we flew over Waco and say the remains of the infamous compound. Next week we have a VFR sortie which we planned to be more of a sight seeing tour. So, that should be fun.

Week 29, 30 & 31

Week 29
The only thing that is good about flying 6 hour missions is that the 12 hour days go by quick. The weeks just seem to be flying by, which is perfectly fine to me. Flying was pretty much standard this week. I did fly out to Roswell New Mexico again which was pretty cool. At first I thought I saw an alien spacecraft, but it turned out to be a couple of F-117’s that were in the pattern with us. It was neat seeing them, but the pilots said that those planes are pretty boring to fly because the computer pretty much does everything. I had another emergency procedures SIM this week as well. I actually enjoy those, they make you think about ways to solve problems you can encounter in the airplane and if you come up with the wrong solution it is pretty evident when you become a large, black, smoking hole in the ground. My flying partner and I were doing so well that the instructor decided to make things interesting for us. So, he gave us a #1 engine oil system malfunction which caused us to shut down the engine, followed shortly by an engine fire in the #2 engine. We were only going on the #2 engine so we had to let that one burn until we could restart the #1 engine and hope that it could get us back to Laughlin. When we got to final and were about to lower the landing gear, the IP gave us a hydraulic system failure which takes out our landing gear, brakes, flaps and nose wheel steering. So, we were about to land with only a half working engine, hydraulic failure and then to top it off he failed our only working generator so we lost all electrics. We surprised him that when were about to land it safely, so he put in a wind shear that forced us to crash. He told us that he would have done anything to get us to crash and we had gotten farther than any other crew he’d seen.
Week 30
Flying is going good. I am getting more confident with the aircraft each flight. Nothing super exciting happened flying wise, so there is not much to report. I am already looking forward to being done with pilot training and start being treated like an adult again, where I don’t have to fill out a form 29B (permission slip) to go out of town.
Week 31
Another pretty average week. There is not really a whole lot that happened. I am now academic complete for pilot training. That means no more classes and no more tests (except the weekly EPQ’s). We are all pretty excited to be finished with that. Friday I flew my “to check” which is the flight right before your checkride to make sure that you are ready. I passed, so I have my first checkride in T-1’s on Monday. It is not really to much different then the T-6 checkride’s, however it is a whole lot more general knowledge intensive. I think I am ready, I just need to practice drawing out the various systems in the T-1. We did fly over a front the other day which was pretty cool. It was the first time I have seen anything like that. The clouds were pretty thick and looked like a white blanket until we got to the front. The clouds then rose about 20,000’ and just dropped off like a cliff. After the front it was perfectly clear without any clouds at all. It was like the front was just dragging the clouds along with it.