Sunday, December 15, 2013

Weeks 35 & 36: Bad Weather and Solo

It's been a bit since I wrote a post, so I'll get to it now. The past two weeks have been interesting, if a bit boring. The highlight was definitely being able to solo the T-38, though the experience was somewhat dampened by bad weather and shortened flight times.

I'll start with two weeks ago. Really things have been going pretty smoothly, I flew pretty regularly and they went well. I was just trying to get opted for my initial solo, but with the weather being crappy the conditions weren't right for transition rides. We ended up doing quite a few instrument rides, trying to get T-rides when we could. On Friday I ended up flying a pretty good sortie to get opted to solo. It was actually a bit eerie; the clouds formed a perfect deck at about 7,000 feet, so from the MOA you were looking down at a floor of white clouds. I don't know what it is about the 38, but when you're nose-down on the last part of a loop or something like that, the ground appears pretty dang close to you. Probably because you're going so fast towards it, but even so, you're at least 10,000 feet away from it assuming you stay in the MOA. So yeah, staring down at the clouds while finishing those over-the-top maneuvers was odd. But pretty sweet as well.

Anyway, the weekend went by and I was ready to go for my solo on Monday. Driving into work, the sky appeared like it would be clear, at least to the west, so I was feeling good about my chances to go up. For whatever reason (Oklahoma's weather sucks) a ceiling of clouds rolled in and the weather turned miserable. They still were going to open the pattern, so I would be flying a pattern-only sortie. While slightly bummed, I prepped up, got all bundled up for the impending cold and stepped out to the jet. It's true what they say: when you're going solo, every strange noise or feel of the plane pops out at you, and you get freaked out by things you probably wouldn't notice while dual. The cold while doing ground ops was terrible; another incentive to get them done quickly. As I drove out of the chocks to head over to the runway, I felt bad for the crew chiefs.

Everything went fine on the taxi out, no runway incursions or anything like that. I had to leave my engines running slightly high to get my oil pressure within limits, but everything else went pretty normally. Due to the cold, we've had a lot of compressor stalls recently. This basically means that the normal smooth airflow through an engine gets interrupted for whatever reason. Anyway, you lose half your available thrust if one of these happens, so to preclude them, you have to run-up to MIL power while jamming on the brakes to let the engines stabilize, then bump the throttles up into minimum afterburner (AB). Once you get the indications that your burners lit, you can then smoothly apply max AB and release the brakes.

Another bad thing the cold gets you is a real potential to overspeed the gear or flaps. The plane performs a lot better in the cold, but better performance leads to a faster speed-up, so you've got to be quick with the gear. Everything went fine on my takeoffs and landings though, unlike my T-6 initial solo.

As a solo student, you're not allowed to land with more than 2,500 pounds of fuel onboard. So we immediately go up to the high pattern, which mimics the normal pattern ground track except that it's 1,200 feet higher. So you're not a conflict for anyone while you drive NASCAR-style around the pattern. I did five laps before I could call my gas and descend to do normal patterns and landings.

All the while, more and more weather was rolling in, so by the time I was actually doing landings and such, the visibility was pretty bad. The T-38 ops supervisor ended up calling the runway supervisory unit and me, talking about the weather and me doing a full-stop. They let me have another touch-and-go, and then I full-stopped. Everything went well though, I was just bummed I could only fly a 0.7-hour flight.

The rest of the week I barely flew, despite the weather being clear and a million. Hopefully in this upcoming week I can get some more flights and possibly two more solos before we leave for winter break. We have our transition check rides coming up soon, so we are going to be left with a good amount of flights after break to relocate our good flying form after spending a week and half at home.

That's about it! Pretty uneventful two weeks, though the solo was a big accomplishment. It was really cool to look around at what I was doing and realize that even though I was only flying around the pattern, I was doing so in a fighter-type aircraft and not messing anything up. Pretty cool.

Hope your weeks were good ones, thanks for reading!

~ Dakota

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Week Thirty-Four: Thanksgiving Break

Well, I can't truly call this much of a UPT week, since we got two days off and I spent the last four days back home in Colorado, but I'll go ahead with a quick post anyway.

Three days were all we had as far as flying goes this week, and they were all pretty good. The weather was great and we got a lot of flights done as a class. Our baby class, 14-09, also started flying Wednesday, so now we'll probably see a decrease in the number of lines we'll fly as our two classes start eating up the ones we have available.

But regardless, we are getting close to soloing the T-38, which will be a pretty awesome experience. The syllabus calls for only 11 flights before the initial solo, which is really crazy when you think about it. But I feel ready, so hopefully sometime next week I'll head out to the MOAs alone with this sweet jet.

After double-turning on Wednesday, I drove down to Oklahoma City for my flight out to Denver, and from then on spent a relaxing time at home eating turkey, seeing old friends and family, and just generally enjoying Colorado's great weather and some cool places I haven't seen in a while.

Back now in good old Enid. The booming metropolis of northern Oklahoma.


Focusing on getting to solo now, and having a good couple of weeks before I get on another plane to Colorado for Christmas break.

Hope your Thanksgiving was a good one!

~ Dakota

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Weeks 32 & 33: Dollar Ride and Trans

Hey there,

Sorry, I was a bit lazy last weekend despite it being a three-day, so I'll just cover the past two weeks in one post.

Well, I finally flew the T-38. It was definitely something new, the amount of power you feel on initial takeoff is something else. It makes the T-6 look like a joke. Kicking into afterburner while stationary on the ground just gets you moving so quickly, before you know it you're screaming along, ready to rotate at 145 knots. Climbing away, you get the gear up and it goes even quicker, and you've got to bring the nose 15º high just to maintain 300 knots. It's pretty incredible.

Before all that though, you do the standard scheme of a flight in UPT: prepare and plan for the sortie, brief it up, grab your gear and step to life support, then run through ground ops. The brief is much the same, though we do a lot more prep and they expect a professional and quiet student. You speak when spoken to, and only ask a question if they ask if you have any. Below is a picture of our briefing board, which we prep for each flight.

It outlines the mission data, objectives, and the EP of the day. You also prep the normal stuff, to include weather, bird status, and NOTAMs (which are temporary changes to airfields).

This time, the big change is now that we strap on our parachute instead of the light harness the T-6 used. So you've got a big turtle-shell on you along with everything else. We have to ride a bus down to the 38s, and finally stepping out toward your jet is a pretty good feeling. I still was in a surreal state of mind when I climbed up the ladder to my cockpit and started running through ground ops. Starting up the engines in this plane is a much more involved process, especially for the crew chief. They have to connect compressed air that starts the engine blades rotating, and from there we hit the start button and advance the individual throttle. They also help with the flight control surface checks, since it's difficult to see them; you're pretty far forward and they're all a ways behind the cockpits.

Taxiing out is pretty cool too. The weather's been fairly nice, though a bit cold, but we almost always taxi with the canopies open, a definite change from the T-6. With the engines sitting behind the cockpit, you're not worried about them hurting you, so you can taxi convertible-style all the way until you're ready for takeoff. We also taxi much further, out to the outside runways which are much longer than the T-6 runway.

The takeoff is awesome, like a described. You just rocket down the runway, accelerating like crazy. However, there is a worry about engine failure and your ability to either stop in the remaining distance or continue the takeoff. Since we have to go so fast to takeoff, the stopping distance is pretty large. Likewise, with an engine failure, your output is greatly reduced, so you've got to accelerate much more in order to lift off. Basically it boils down to a go/no-go speed which we would abort prior to and takeoff after.

The rest of the flight goes extremely fast, since you're burning through gas so quickly. In the T-6, you could spend 30 minutes in the area doing maneuvers and then head to our practice landing airfield for some landings before heading home. Now we just hit up the area for 20 minutes or so, then drive straight back to Vance for a couple patterns and landings and then full stopping.

I've flown five sorties over the past two weeks and all of them have last one hour on the dot. So the average sortie duration is much shorter. You just have to be that much better, since you don't have the luxury of repeating maneuvers.

It's pretty awesome though. I'm definitely enjoying it, in spite of the long hours and studying. It's pretty amazing to be flying a jet like this, something I'd not get to do in any other aviation program.

Looking forward to the next couple months!

~ Dakota

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Week Thirty-One: Weather Week

As you can probably guess, this last week was heavily influenced by the weather, mostly in a negative way.

We ended up having a stretch of stormy and overcast weather hit northern Oklahoma for most of the week, which really messed up any plans for dollar rides this week. Monday was the soonest that any of us were ready to fly, but each flight got cancelled due to low ceilings which made it impossible to open up the traffic pattern. And the whole point of these first few rides is not to fly instruments but to get us used to the ground references and visual flight.

So Monday went down the drain, followed by Tuesday and Wednesday with the same, if not worse, conditions. Rainy, sleety, cloudy conditions prevailed throughout most of the week. Thursday was pretty interesting though; it was by far the worst weather of the week in the morning, but by afternoon it was sunny and clear. We actually had rides get cancelled in the morning go, and then those who got nixed got to see the later lines go out to fly. So 14-08 had its first flights in the T-38 this week, which is pretty sweet.

I had been a bit behind due to the way scheduling has gone, so the weather didn't affect me too much. I simmed quite a bit this week, finally finishing up those that would opt me to fly. When Friday's schedule showed up, I was on it. 1206 would be my takeoff time, and the forecast showed clear skies and great weather, if a bit windy.

Here's where the weather screwed us again. Because it was so nice on Friday, the schedulers decided to scratch our dollar ride lines and send up formation solos that needed to fly before they would have to fly a dual sortie again due to time constraints. The syllabus is a complicated system to explain briefly, but basically they needed to send up the solo students in order to prevent having to give extra dual flights. With the way budget issues are right now, it makes sense. So us new kids got to wait around, though we helped out with the Halloween treat-or-treat going on in the squadron. Families of the pilots working at Vance got to go through and get candy from us, and there were Halloween decorations and whatnot.

So Monday should be the big day, I will be sure to talk about what it's like to fly the 38 so stay tuned and have a good week. Looking forward to flying again!

~ Dakota

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Weeks 29 & 30: The Fuge

I wanted to delay posting last week since we had a pretty short week, coupled with the fact that last Sunday my classmates and I were traveling down to San Antonio for centrifuge training, so we stayed pretty busy.

After a short, four-day week due to Columbus Day, there wasn't much to tell. We've just been going through Applied Aerodynamics academics, which have been pretty low-threat. I had one sim that week as well, which was good. It was the first one I got to actually do stuff while flying, instead of simply running through checklists and switches.

The weekend rolled around and we had already prepped the travel plans for our trip down to Texas. Sunday morning we all met up on base and hopped in a shuttle to drive down to Oklahoma City for the flight to San Antonio. It was actually a cool day. We hung out at the airport, grabbed some breakfast, and then had a short layover in Houston. After hopping over to San Antonio, we split ways temporarily and headed to two different car rental places. My two passengers and I got a sweet VW Golf. Probably the coolest car ever. No seriously.

We drove over to our luxurious hotel (La Quinta) and dropped off our bags. Then it was a night out on the river walk, though we had to not drink anything to keep ourselves from getting dehydrated the next day. So it was waters and Arnold Palmers that night. We did have some good food throughout the day and got to check out the Alamo.

Then, the fuge. On Monday we drove down to Brooks AFB and went to the sketchy-looking buildings that housed the centrifuge. After getting refreshed on our AGSM techniques and learning about some of the do's and don't's of the fuge, we got all set up in a break room with windows showing the spinning contraption.

Our SRO went first, followed by alphabetic order. I was third to last, so I got to see a good amount go before me. It looked... painful. And it was. Basically we started out with a gradual increase in g-loading until we lost our peripheral vision. This gives you your resting g tolerance. I had a 4.4 resting tolerance, not the greatest but pretty average. The highest of our group was 6.3.

Then we started with the profiles. First there's 4 g's for 15 seconds. Not too bad, and I didn't lose any vision. Next up was 5 g's for 30 seconds. Once again, 5 g's isn't too bad momentarily, but for 30 seconds you really start to get tired, straining your lower body and only breathing every 3 seconds. Still I did fine and had no vision loss. Next up was the big one, 7.5 for 15 seconds. I definitely did lose some light; I started to bear down my upper body instead of focusing on straining my legs. So some definite room for improvement, but I ended up alright.

Lastly there's a profile called SACM, where you are pretending to chase an enemy aircraft and you're pulling g's to do so. So it's 7 g's for 10 seconds, 6 for 5, 5 for 5, and then 7 for 10.  Overall this was tiring, but you do get quick rests in between each pull. I finished the fuge profiles and they stopped spinning me. The hatch opened on my right and I struggled out. It felt like I had just run 10 miles and I was wobbling as I walked back to the break room. My flight suit was covered in sweat and I felt awful. It really sucked. So I sipped on some gatorade and watched the last two people go. We got debriefed on our performance (they take videos of the whole thing happening) and got our disc with the videos on it. We also got little morale patches (which we can't wear anymore...) that said GLOC with the word crossed out. G-induced loss of consciousness is what it stands for, and no one passed out so that was good.

Monday night we went hard. I'll leave it at that (heh heh).

Tuesday we recovered with some breakfast at Denny's and headed back to the airport to return to good old Enid. This week was pretty boring, I didn't sim at all, so I'm not opted to fly yet. But the first dollar rides of class 14-08 will be tomorrow, so that's pretty awesome. Can't wait to fly.

Tune in next week, I'll have my first flight in the T-38 to describe!

~ Dakota

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Week Twenty-Eight: Systems and Sims

Hello again,

Well, things have been going pretty well, really we've just been keeping busy with lots of studying, systems classes, and a couple sims.

I forgot to mention last week that we took a quick visit back to Aerospace Physiology, where we went through egress training once again. The 38 is different from the T-6 in its seat, so we had to learn the new connections, methods, and all that kind of stuff. One big difference is that now we will be wearing our own parachutes, which connect to the seat and also double as a back cushion of sorts. The seat (like the jet) is about 50-60 years old, and its capabilities are not near as good as the Martin-Baker seat in the T-6. The ejection envelope is a bit smaller, which means that below certain airspeeds the seat won't save you. We'll be the last flight with this seat; they're upgrading the 38s with brand new Martin-Baker seats, but only after we and also 14-09 have started Phase III.

Sims have been pretty low-threat, really it's just switching switches and doing checklists so far. But soon enough we'll be moving into the Transition block of training. Transition is essentially Contact, and is so named because we are moving into a new aircraft. The numbers and some policies are different, but much of what we did in the prior phase will help with 38s. They're just so much faster and there's a lot more at risk.

There are only five tests in 38s, which is kind of nice. But there is a lot more on each test. Like the systems test: after a two weeks of academics we had our test, so all of that material was testable. I only missed one, so that was good.

I'm running out of things to say quick here, really there won't be much to say until we start flying. We go to the centrifuge this Sunday, so that's a quick hop on commercial air down to San Antonio. Monday will be the big day, we have a 7.5 g profile to get through, so I've been getting up for that.

I promise the posts will quickly get more exciting, it's just now we don't do too much in T-38-landia besides study, CAIs, and sims. So it's not the most exhilarating of stuff right now. But soon.

Hope all is well and if you're still reading this far, I commend you. Take it easy!

~ Dakota

Monday, October 7, 2013

Week Twenty-Seven: 12-Hour Days...

Well, it's been a long week! I am just updating quickly tonight, since it's late and I need to catch some sleep.

The first week in T-38s went pretty well, though it has been a little rough based solely on the amount of time we spend at work each day. We are on formal release, which if you remember from T-6s means that we can't leave until they let us go. And in 38s they are much more strict on all fronts, so we're pretty much stuck at work for our entire 12-hour duty day. Last week was an early show week, so it was 0630 to 1830 (or thereabouts) every day.

What do we do the whole time? Well we are doing academics (CAIs again! Hooray) but those only go for so long. The rest of the time we're in our flight room studying the myriad topics that have to do with the 38. We are also pretty heavy into Systems now, and just like before, they go very in-depth.

Overall, I'm enjoying it though. The other guys (and gal) who went 38s are pretty cool, and we get along well. It is also sweet to be learning this aircraft, and knowing that in just a couple of weeks we'll be heading out to the flight line to fly.

It's kind of odd to feel like we don't know anything again. At least at the end of T-6s we were pretty comfortable with the way things went. Mostly this is evident in our lack of knowledge on how ground ops will work, as well as the in-flight checks we'll be doing. This is because we haven't actually sat in a cockpit yet, but we are now opted for the very first "switchology" sims so we'll get more acquainted with the dials and buttons here shortly. The verbiage is also very different, and of course we'll have to say and do everything according to the 25th FTS's way of operating.

That's it, like I said, this is a short post! Take it easy.

~ Dakota

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Week Twenty-Six: Track Select

Well, we've finally moved on from T-6s! Track select was Thursday night and it was a pretty good time. I'll get to my assignment at the end of the post...

So after preparing all of the things we needed to, like the roasts of everyone in the class, the slides showing our info and "hero shot" pictures, and our red carpet sim times, we really ended up just kinda waiting around for Thursday. Which was nice, because it was a well-deserved rest from the quick pace we had been going at.

One of the more interesting things we did was welcome the new class into our flight room, showing them the ropes and giving what advice we could. I was in charge of showing how to prepare the briefing slides for the morning's formal brief. There are quite a few steps, and it was pretty funny to see the looks on the new guys' faces as they watched me set them up. Keep in mind this is just a PowerPoint presentation, which is nothing compared to what they'll do on the flight line. But they'll get it down just like we did. Anyway, we also gave them some phony information just to have a bit of fun. For example we included a "Dawg of the Week" slide on the formal brief, which we never actually did. Our IPs sent a pic of it to us the next day when they briefed it... haha it was funny to see that they were so believing.

My parents also came into town, so it was really nice to see them again and to show them the booming metropolis of Enid, OK.

Thursday rolled around and we were all getting stoked for track select to happen. That morning I showed my mom and dad around the base and the flight line, which they enjoyed. We also had about twenty minutes to mess around in a simulator, so my dad hopped in and I tried to give the best instruction I could while he flew around. Needless to say, it was difficult to tell him what to do! He did an alright job, but it was hilarious watching him start to dive toward the ground without even realizing it. I'm like, "Pull up! Pull up, you're gonna crash!" He did a good aileron roll though, and his landing went decent. Overall not too bad. I got a sense for how the IPs feel with brand new students doing stupid stuff.

At four we had our party, where we provided beer, wings, and pizza for the variety of guests. Then finally at five we started the ceremony. After walking into the auditorium in alphabetic order (except for our SROs, who would be going first) we quickly started the roasts. Each person gets called up to the front and are made fun of for a bit, then their selection is revealed. Everything was going as we had expected (you kind of get the sense where people will be headed, especially based on their choice and on hear-say). But there was a point where a guy who was a strong candidate for 38s didn't get them, and that made me nervous.

By the time I went to the front, 5 T-38s had already been handed out. Fortunately, that number included 3 international ones, which are automatic, so I was still in the running. After my roast, which made fun of me for overspeeding my flaps and various things I've said and done, the three aircraft went up on the screen. The UH-1 quickly went away, leaving just the T-38 and the T-1...


Then, as I looked nervously at the screen, a big picture of a T-38 formation popped up! I got my first choice!

Hell yeah
After saluting my flight commander and shaking his hand, I walked over to my classmates who'd already gotten their planes and gave everyone a high five on the way down the line. It was a pretty amazing feeling to have gotten 38s, and I was still kind of reeling from it. It hadn't really kicked in that I got them yet.

One other cool thing that happened was we had a guy going for helos, and he got them! He was the guy who had gone through the Commander's Review process, so everyone was pretty stoked for him.

After meeting up with my parents again, who were justifiably proud and emotional (you know how parents get haha) our new flight commander called the nine of us over to a corner of the room. We were told to report to our new flight room for a briefing.

After walking into our new room, we were sat down and given a couple talkings-to about what it meant now that we had become T-38 students. It was intense, and I got a sense of how things will be here. We were given a new boldface/ops limits to fill out and memorize, and told to show up prepared to test on it.

So it starts all over! We got a our publications on Friday, were given a couple introduction briefings and tested on our new boldface. After studying for a couple hours in the flight room, we got released.

This weekend has been pretty fun, Friday night was a big celebration night for everyone in our class, and it was a doozy. As I finish typing this, I'm sitting in front of my stack of study materials, so I've gotta end it and get back to them.

See you next week after our first full week of T-38 training. Only three weeks until our dollar rides!

Take it easy.

~ Dakota

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Week Twenty-Five: T-6 Complete!

Well, the day finally arrived. I am now T-6 complete and awaiting track select! It feels pretty good to be done with this phase of training, though I still can't believe how fast it's gone. It's still weird to think that I most likely will never get in a T-6 again (but it's possible).

I had only my two low levels, so after a couple days of waiting, I got to fly those. They are very low-threat as far as grading goes, and they're actually pretty fun. You basically fly along a pre-planned track going from point to point. You're trying to get to those points at a certain time, so you have to adjust your power to try and hit the point as close to the right time as you can. At the end of the route is a target point. You have a Time on Target (TOT) that is published and it's your goal to get that time. These are introducing us to the low level world of flight, and the operational aspect of that with respect to heavy and fighter aircraft. For fighters it's pretty easy to see the connection: we want our bombs to hit the right target at the right time. For heavies, there are combat drops that are performed in the C-17, as well as paratrooper drops that have to be in the right area at the right time. So there are many ways low levels affect flight in the operational Air Force.

Overall I enjoyed my two low levels. The first one went really well, and I managed to hit my target at exactly the posted time. So that was pretty sweet. The other one we had to abort the route due to intense thunderstorms and rain that were gathering on our flight path. We ended up heading back to base early, which gave us some time to hit up an area one last time with some aerobatics and also for my IP to do an instrument approach. I was joking with him that all we needed was for one of the solo planes to break so we could fly chase ship for him and we'd have done all four phases of flying in one flight. But we just came back to the pattern and I got my last landings in the T-6. They were good ones, so I was happy to leave it on a good note. When I got out of the cockpit and made sure it was good to go, I gave the plane one last pat on the nose cap. It's been an amazing T-6 experience, but now on to bigger and better things.

So now I wait! Thursday is the big day, and since I'm done flying for now, there's really not much to do. Yeah we have some administrative things to take care of, but they haven't taken up that much time and overall I've been able to peace out of work really early the past couple of days.

This upcoming week we will get end of phase feedback, give our feedback to our leadership, finish up any last things we need to accomplish, and also welcome the new class into D flight. This is crazy because it seems like yesterday that we were being welcomed in by the senior class and shown the ropes of life in our flight room. Then of course, track select.

My next post will say where I'm headed, so be sure to check it out! I'm pretty stoked and can't wait to find out if I'm heading to the 38.

Either way, I'll still be flying, so you can't beat that.

Take care!

~ Dakota

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Week Twenty-Four: Instrument Check

Well, we're getting close to the finish! A couple of my buddies have finished all of their rides in T-6s, and overall everyone's going to be done in a very short time. I flew the last of my instrument rides this week and am also now Check Ride Complete!

I started out the week coming straight off the weekend and cross country, so flying was very fresh and there were really no problems getting back under the hood and in the back seat. I started to fly check ride profiles pretty much exclusively, meaning the flights were planned according to the four possible instrument check rides. One of them goes to Oklahoma City, one to Wichita, one to Wiley Post (near OKC) and one is a local sortie with approaches flown at Woodring.

So I rotated through each of the profiles, finishing up with the Woodring sortie. And luckily enough, I ended up drawing the Woodring check ride. So that was pretty cool. It was pretty sweet, the weather was actually kind of crappy, so for some parts of the flight we were flying instruments not just in name. My MOA work went really well and my approaches were all well-flown too. Even when I got pushed into the holding pattern, it didn't mess things up for me. Naturally with any check ride, you over-analyze everything you think you did wrong. So the mistakes I made turned out to be less bad than I thought.

I got an E on this one, so I went from a U to a G to two E's on my check rides. Finishing strong!

Now I only have two rides left in T-6s, and they're pretty low threat. It's crazy how fast things have gone. Now to just finish up with these low levels and wait for September 26th!

~ Dakota

Monday, September 9, 2013

Week Twenty-Three: Cross Country

Haven't forgotten about this, just didn't get a true weekend. I flew cross country so I got back Sunday night. The cross country was pretty awesome, I chose to fly to Colorado so I could visit home and also fly around in the mountains. It was very cool overall and I'm glad I got to do it.

First off, you have to plan out your route extensively, making sure to plan for which airports you're going to, getting ramp space and gas, places to stay and things to do. Since I was heading home, it was pretty easy to find a place to sleep, but the other stuff was the same. You also have to fill out a couple of forms saying where you'll be headed, which both authorizes your trip and also serves as a means to get paid your per diem when you return.

Friday was the big day, so we brought in our bags packed with clothes, our large amounts of publications we'd be using in-flight, and the rest of our normal gear. I was in 3716, a green-tail T-6, so I started getting ready as usual with the small exception of throwing my stuff in the small baggage compartment. We were headed to Garden City, Kansas for our stopover point before flying on to Centennial Airport in Colorado. What's cool is it's about 10 minutes from my house, so my family and close friends were able to swing by and check out the jet and take a bunch of pictures and stuff. It was really good to be home again after quite a while away, and Colorado was really great compared to Oklahoma.

We (me, my IP, and my family) hung out that afternoon and night which was pretty sweet. The next day we had planned a VFR trip up to Grand Junction. Flying up into the mountains was very cool, it was a perfectly clear day and we could see everything below us well. It was pretty quick hop up to Grand Junction, and we passed many of the common skiing destinations on the way up. Though they were quite devoid of snow at this point in the year. Still, the scenery was great and we enjoyed turning from side to side to catch better glances of stuff as it passed by below. After shooting a couple of approaches to Grand Junction, we landed and refueled. Right as we landed a couple of helicopters flew up and landed close by, and it turns out they were Army choppers (but didn't really look like it). So we got a chance to chat with them in the planning room and catch a quick glance at the college football games that were on that day.

Then it was back in the jet and off to Centennial again, though by a different route. We fly over to the Black Canyon near Gunnison, which was pretty phenomenal to see. A river wound its way through a massive gorge with steep slopes on either side. Pretty awesome. From there we flew from lake to lake until we were once again out of the mountains and in sight of the field.

We had planned on catching most of the Air Force football game that day, but there were plenty of delays, so we caught only about the last third of the game. Not too bad to see some old friends who were still at the Academy and also to see my dad. He had driven up from NM that day to watch the game and see me, and we chatted for quite a while at dinner that night, which was really good.

Back up to the Denver area that night for one last night out, then in the morning we set off for Amarillo after some goodbyes at home. The flight over was mostly straight, so there was plenty of time to relax (kind of) way up at 27,000 feet.

Amarillo was pretty bumpy and busy, but we got some good approach work done. What really sucked was when I was opening the canopy on the ground, my helmet bag (with my wallet and phone in it) got caught in the opening struts next to my seat. I kept trying to open the canopy, but it was stuck... on my phone and wallet. So I moved the bag and got out without realizing. But when I reached in the bag to grab my stuff, I saw the damage. My phone was crushed beyond functionality, so now I'm without a properly working phone, though I think the data and stuff still works. Just the screen is destroyed as hell. So that's a big bummer.

We had a LONG flight back to Vance, stopping quickly at Oklahoma City for some last approaches and then flying home. We landed and departed 3716 Green for the last time that weekend, making sure all our stuff was accounted for.

I really enjoyed my time, though it does kind of suck not having a true weekend to relax. As you can imagine the whole experience was a bit draining, and I'm definitely less-rested than usual. But hey, the real thing to be happy about is the fact that I'm only 6 rides away from T-6 completion!

~ Dakota

Monday, September 2, 2013

Week Twenty-Two: Sim Complete and Night Rides

Man the time seems to just fly by! I can't believe I'm less than a month away from track select. It really has gone quick...

This week was a pretty good one! Well, it started out kind of crappy but ended up being pretty cool. I DID get sick over the weekend, so that sucked. Just your normal cold-type symptoms, runny nose and all that. I ended up going DNIF, which means I couldn't fly until I got cleared to by the doc. So on Monday and Tuesday I simmed which brought me to having only one left! I knocked that one out too, so now I'm sim complete, which is a really good feeling. No longer do I have to go over to that building and listen to old geezers vent about how easy we have it with GPS nowadays... oh wait, yeah I do because there are still sims in phase three. Oh well, done with them for now.

I did start to feel better and got back on flying status, and then it was time for my night rides. All this week we've been showing up at about 3 pm, which is pretty awesome. However, if you are on the schedule to fly at night, you don't end up leaving work until about 11 pm. The plus side is that night flights are pretty sick.

The big difference is obviously that there's no light. This isn't a big deal while flying (well, sort of) but for ground ops it makes things interesting. Setting up the cockpit the way you want it is a bit more difficult when you're holding a flashlight in your mouth to see what you're doing. Fortunately, there are plenty of instrument panel lights to help you out, but the initial set up is frustrating.

You also have to change up the way you do your outer lights. We have four sets of lights: nav, taxi, landing, and strobes. The nav lights are the little green and red ones on the wingtips, so they're not too bad. The others can be a bit bright though, especially the flashing strobes. Typically you'll leave them off until you're well clear of other people, even other planes.

Taxi-out is the same, only you have to keep a larger distance between you and other planes. The same goes for landing. You need 6000 feet of clearance between planes as opposed to the daytime limit of 3000 feet. For our runway, this means that no one can be on it in order for you to touch down.

Once you're flying though, things get more familiar. Yes the cockpit is darker and there are lots of glowing panels and such, but the flying is the same as any other instrument flight. Outside you've got really no view, except when you're over a city or something. Then it's pretty cool to look out and check out the lights. It's pretty weird, like you're flying in this big black void where there's no sky or ground. That's what can be dangerous in mountainous regions: imagine thinking you're flying toward open air, when really there's a mountain in front of you!

I enjoyed it. I flew down to Oklahoma City for my first night ride. It was also my first time flying down there. It was pretty busy! There are a ton of radio calls you have to make, and this time you're playing with the big boys. This is an international airport, not just our training base. You really don't want to mess up there and cause a runway to be closed or something. That's a lot of money down the drain for those airliners, and the Air Force doesn't need a bad rap. But I did alright and got in a couple night landings as well! It's only about a 20-minute flight to OKC from Vance, as opposed to the 2-hour drive (more on that later...).

My second flight was to Wichita and that was cool as well. That fills my quota for night flights. Now I don't have to do one on my cross country, which frees up a lot of time.

So, I tried to go home this long weekend. Unfortunately it didn't work out. I drove down to OKC to try to catch a flight, but since I fly standby it isn't always a sure thing. So my flight was all booked up and that was the last one of the night. Major bummer... So I had a choice: to stay in the city and try and find something to do alone and someplace to stay, or make the trek back to Enid. I ended up going home and still had enough time to hit up Callahan's with some friends. My car was pelted with insects (seriously, it was disgusting, I hate the bugs here) so I gave her a fill-up and a nice carwash haha. It was a sucky night, but you can't win them all... Hopefully I can fly to Colorado next weekend, only this time the plane won't leave without me: I'll be flying it!

Stay classy,

~ Dakota

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Week Twenty-One: Form Complete! On to Instruments

Hello again,

It's been a pretty good week! Once again I've been double-turning almost every day, but mostly the focus this week was getting to my Form check ride and knocking that out. After flying through the last rides of the formation block, I was ready to go on Friday for my check. What's cool is they schedule you for the last three or four flights with the same student on your wing, so you really get a sense for how they fly and vice versa. My check ride buddy and I flew pretty well together, which definitely makes a big difference.

Anyway we prepped up well with some final studying and chair-flying, and went in on Friday ready to go. The ride went very well for me, from first to last. I was on the wing on the way out and then led back. Overall everything was well-flown on both sides, and as I drove around the traffic pattern for my landing I knew I was good. When I greased the landing that confirmed it. I came out of that check ride with an Excellent! My buddy was nervous because he forgot an important checklist on the ground (the one where you remove your ejection seat's safety pin) but got a Good. So that was awesome, the first two form checks in D Flight and they were both passes.

Funnily enough, both him and I were scheduled for instrument sims right after our check ride, so we went off to those. I was pretty tired by that point, so my sim didn't go perfectly, but overall it was fine too. Sims really are dependent on who your IP is. Most of them are pretty old dudes who are caught up in their old glory days, and sometimes you get a sim IP who is just absolutely awful. There are four or five who when you see you're scheduled with them you just want to curse profusely... But other times you get a really good IP and it's much better.

Right now I am three sims away from being T-6 Sim Complete and I am now only about 17 T-6 rides away from completion! A lot of these rides will get knocked out over our weekend cross country coming up on the 6th through the 8th. Time-wise, we are a month away from track select as of tomorrow. So we're on schedule to complete T-6s and find out our next aircraft.

Starting this week those of us who went form first will be moving solely into instruments, just like the guys who went instruments will now be getting more form rides. I am also scheduled for two night rides tomorrow and Tuesday, so that should be pretty awesome! Even if there are no cloud layers to deal with, when you fly at night you HAVE to fly off your instruments since there are no visual cues available at all. Plus you're dealing with lighting issues in the cockpit, since the sun isn't around to light up what you want to see. It should be a pretty cool experience.

I am feeling slightly under the weather, so hopefully I won't have to go DNIF (duties not to include flying) tomorrow... But I'd also rather not mess with my sinuses by exposing them to higher altitudes and possibly end up with a sinus block. Not fun, plus I'd not be finished with UPT on schedule at all. One of my classmates had that happen to him. He's a 1st Lieutenant now since he waited an entire year before he could get into another class. A year in Enid, not flying?? Yeah, no thanks.

Take it easy!

~ Dakota

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Weeks 19 & 20: Low Level, Nav, Form Solo

Well, it's been awhile since my last post, but I've been quite busy!

The past two weeks have gone pretty well, but they've definitely been packed with lots of events, both sims and flights. I'm still rolling pretty heavily through both form and instruments. I've been double-turning almost every day, simming in the mornings and flying in the afternoon. At first the transition between formation flying and instruments was a bit difficult, especially in the same day. But now it's pretty much the norm.

Form has been going extremely well. My inclinations at the beginning of this block of training were right, and I feel confident that things will turn out well come track select. Speaking of which, we're only about one month away from that! I'm two rides away from my form check ride, so by Friday I'll have that complete.

My form solo was also last week! This was one of the coolest things I've ever been able to do in my life. This is a huge milestone for any pilot. It definitely hit me mid-flight that I was 10 feet from another aircraft and that there was no one else in my plane who could help me out. But the solo went perfectly and I had an awesome time. I even got in a little lag roll just before we started recovering to Vance (when you're in Fighting Wing position, which is really wide and far from #1, you have a big area to move around in, meaning you can barrel roll around #1 to get to his other side). It's kinda hard to explain... haha but it's pretty sick to do.

They threw me into my Low Level sim, as well as the string of three Navigation sims. Those have been interesting. The Low Level block of flights are usually the last in T-6s, and they're pretty cool so I've heard.

Ok... so we won't be THAT low.

Navigation is big, since soon we'll be going cross country over an upcoming weekend. It's actually pretty cool flying along jet routes from airport to airport along a planned-out route, you really get a sense for how quickly you can travel in the air. 102-mile legs just go by like that when you're cruising at 300 knots groundspeed. I am looking forward to cross country, hopefully we'll plan a route to Colorado and some other cool destinations.

Really, there's not too much to tell from the past two weeks (which is kind of sad haha) but they have really just flown by, and before you know it two weeks have gone by with no blog updates. The apartment stands semi-furnished, and finally I will be getting my full housing allowance next pay period so that will be pretty sweet.

That's about it, but I've got another good joke:

When I was in elementary school, I used to just sit around and look out the window all day. My teacher would get really mad at me, saying that I'd never go anywhere in life if just looked out the window all the time...


Stay classy.

~ Dakota

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Week Eighteen: Form

Well, it's been everything I thought it would be and more.

I love formation flying, it's the coolest thing I've ever done and I can't wait to keep doing it. I can't really describe the adrenaline rush you get from being THAT close to another plane while flying your own. It's amazing. Both flying wing and lead are fun, in their own way, but you really have to adjust your mindset when you're flying form.

As lead, you are responsible for the flight. So all of the radio calls, navigation, and decision-making are on you. Since Number 2 is flying off of your wing, you have to also be sure that you are flying a stable platform. Basically you need to be smooth and controlled when you start a turn or anything like that, so #2 isn't thrown wide/high/low without enough time to react. You're also very directive as #1. One of the funniest things you say as #1 is the call to tell #2 to get away from you as if he had lost you in the weather. It goes: "Axle, go practice lost wingman." I like it because it's basically like "Get the f*** outta here" haha. Axle is just one of the formation callsigns. We have to sign them out the day of our flight, so that no one else can use it. Otherwise it'd be disastrously confusing if there were two Axle flights flying at the same time. But the lost wingman thing is pretty important. On my first form ride (the form dollar ride, because we didn't fly too much) we quickly got into the weather. We STILL have to fly in formation, even in the clouds, so you've got to be really diligent and not lose your wingman in the grey haze. It's pretty crazy to see.

As Number 2, your biggest job is to not hit number 1! Your other jobs are backing up #1 on the radios, helping to clear for other planes, and trusting #1. I like flying wing more than leading actually. Your skills are really tested when you have to stay in a position that's set for you. It's difficult, because you have to adjust your spacing in three dimensions using the stick and power control lever (PCL). The stick moves you laterally and vertically with respect to #1, and the PCL moves you forward and aft. You are constantly moving them; there is no rest or break in adjusting the controls. As lead, you just set your power and trim up the aircraft to fly level (or whatever), but as #2 you are constantly fighting to get into position and keep it there.

At first it's a bit discouraging because you suck and you're flying all over the place. But as you get better and better, you get more stable and start to stay right in position.

The comms are a bit difficult at first, because you not only have to communicate with outside controlling agencies, but also with your wingman. So there are just more things to say. We also use a lot of visual hand signals which are pretty cool. You are so close to them that hand signals work really well. Think about that!! Some of the signals involve individual fingers sticking up to indicate numbers and such. Think about how close to someone you have to be to see individual fingers. Now imagine that distance but now you're both in two different aircraft!

Anyway it's amazing. It's also really cool to be up there with my fellow flight-mates and classmates. I've only been up with an IP in the backseat, but now it's another student and his IP. I think it's really cool to see that.

I also got thrown into an instrument ride, my first one ever. You have to wear a little hood thing while flying to restrict your vision of the outside. So you just have to fly off your instruments and hope you know what you're doing. Overall I didn't do too badly, but seeing as how it was my first one ever I was happy even with the mistakes I did make. But you have to sit in the back seat, you don't get to land at all, and you barely do any maneuvers. So form is much better!

That's it for this week, we're getting close now! September 26th is our track select and I'm getting stoked for the end of T-6s and the beginning of bigger and better things.

~ Dakota

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Week Seventeen: On to Formation!

Well! This week has been pretty interesting and atypical, for a lot of reasons.

The first is that I did not fly once this week. Yup, you heard me. No flights. I did have a couple sims, but the ones following them were quickly dropped from my schedule. It turns out that sequestration is hitting us in a big way, and I don't just say that because the Commissary is closed on Monday and Tuesday and I can't go get my favorite sandwich from there on those days (though that IS pretty annoying).

Nope, because the military is forced to deal with extreme budget cuts, we've had to furlough our civilians. So one day a week, every civilian on base doesn't get to go to work which means they don't get to be paid for that day. This includes the sim instructors, so we are now in the midst of a "sim stop" due to the decreased number of sims that can be done.

So instead of having us wait around forever trying to get opted for our instrument flights, our IPs have decided to do something different: some of us have been moved on to the Formation block!

Six people (me included) from D Flight are going to be flying Form next, while the other six will continue on in Instruments. One of our guys is still in Contact, but he just got out of the Commander's Review Process. Oh! I don't think I posted this yet, but we had a successful return to Pilot Training in D Flight! One of our own had struggled and "flunked out" but the Squadron, Group, and Wing Commanders decided to keep him. So he's back flying now, in the advanced aero phase of Contact. Which is awesome for him, I'm really glad he's staying.

So for the past week I've started studying Formation stuff. There aren't too many numbers and that kind of thing. It will mostly be "hands." Meaning seat-of-the-pants, ability to fly the plane 10 feet from the wingtip of another plane.

I'm stoked.

We've had to kind of rush through the Form academics, because without them, a test (of course), and one sim ride, we won't be opted to fly. Get this: on Tuesday I will have my Form test, one last Form CAI, a Form sim, and my first Form ride. Sweet. No seriously, I'm looking forward to it!

More updates to come! Stay classy.

~ Dakota

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Weeks 15 & 16: Final Contact & I-Sims

Hey there,

So I definitely took a week off from the blog! It's been a bit crazy, and the weekends seem to just fly by leaving me with little time. But I have a bit now to jot down what's happened over the past two weeks.

Last week I flew a lot of contact sorties, getting better at advanced aerobatics and preparing for my check ride. The coolest part was definitely my area solo! This was my fourth solo in the T-6, so it wasn't so nerve-wracking as before. However, this time instead of just hanging out in the Vance pattern, I took the plane out to the working areas and practiced my aerobatics all alone! It was a pretty amazing time. The whole way out there I was thinking "I'm just flying away, by myself. I can do whatever I want!" However, we are always being 'watched' by the onboard computer system that monitors all the systems. You may know this as the 'black box'. So if they wanted they could download the info it records and plot out my flight on a computer.

Anyway, I got out to the MOA and started practicing my aero. It was actually a very good opportunity to practice because there's no one in the back seat judging you / talking, so it's extremely peaceful and there's not a lot of pressure. After practicing every maneuver at least twice, I felt pretty good about them. I then started to play around a bit (staying within limits of course)! I lined myself up on one extreme side of my area and pointed diagonally to the other end to give myself as much space as possible. I then pitched upward, went to MAX power and started doing as many aileron rolls as possible. I got to 6 haha. Which doesn't sound like that much, but you start to get a little disoriented constantly rolling like that! Not to mention, diving toward the earth. I then tried inverted flight, just to see what it felt like. Imagine hanging upside down while strapped into a chair. That's about it. Oh, and the dirt and stuff on the floor of the cockpit all falls upward to the canopy haha. I took the rest of the flight easy, and pretended to shoot at a small town underneath me (the trigger in this plane doesn't do anything, not like we have munitions anyway). After pulling G's in nearly every maneuver, I started feeling a little out of it, so I decided to head back to base. Everything else went well.

That was the big part of that first week. In the next, we actually got weather cancelled twice! Which is crazy because the weather has been extremely hot, but good otherwise. I did get up for my to-check and Final Contact check ride. I seriously thought I failed it, but it turned out alright and I got a Good overall.

Now, it's weird to think, but I'm done with that phase of training! We've moved on to instruments now and it's very different. I've been simming only, because you have to have a certain number of sims done before you can actually fly an instrument ride. As a flight we killed final contact, with a 92% pass rate! Much better than our 62% pass rate on the midphase check haha.

We also had our solo party, which was pretty fun. A couple guys in our class have a pool at their house so we went there, had plenty of food and drinks, and games and such. The key part of it is the cutting of the ties, where the IP that soloed us out gives a little speech about our solo (remember my flap overspeed?) and cuts off a portion of the tie we're wearing. The more they take, the worse you did. After making fun of my flap overspeed, he took about half of it. Then you take a shot of Jeremiah Weed, which is a nasty whiskey (and the drink of fighter pilots). My guy was Mormon however, so he drank jalapeño juice haha.

That's about it for these past two weeks. Oh I also moved off base into an apartment! So that was kinda sucky, but now that I'm in it, it's so much better than my dorm.

Anyway, take care and I hope all is well. To my faithful readers, thanks!

~ Dakota

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Week Fourteen: Short Week, Check Ride, 4th

So I definitely am getting later and later on these posts... And they're becoming shorter and shorter.

This week was interesting. First it was extremely short, only a three-day week, for Fourth of July. I had my first check ride on Monday, which I flew pretty well on and the ground evaluation went well. I ended up hooking because of one minor error in judgment (I won't call it a mistake because I meant to do it) and ended up on what's called an 88 ride. I passed that just fine, and then started advanced aerobatics on Wednesday.

The weekend has been incredible. It was a really good chance to relax, hang with friends, and not worry about flying. Four days off were just what I needed.

Now it's back to the grind, but I'm looking forward to my area solo (where we take the plane all ourselves out to the areas and do aerobatics and such!) and my move. I decided to move off base into a small apartment, though it's still bigger than my dorm. Plus it is an a good location, still close to the base, and will have air conditioning. Seriously that's probably one of the biggest reasons I'm moving, my dorm feels like a freaking sauna, and even better it's back to be 100+ degrees outside...

That's about it. Shortest week and post to date :)

~ Dakota

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Week Thirteen: Double-turning

Why hello there,

If you're still reading, I commend you. It's funny, I can see the number of page views each post gets and they are gradually tapering off with each new update. Not that I expect people to read religiously, this is more for posterity than anything. But I do get a chuckle when the first post has like 20 views and the last one has 2, haha.

Oh well. Anyway this week was a very busy one. Four out of the five days I double-turned, which is two flying events a day. This means either a sim or an actual sortie, since both take the same amount of time, generally, and they're both graded events. On two of these double-turn days I flew twice, which was pretty sweet. I could mold the second sortie around what happened on the first, which was very beneficial to my flying.

I also carried the bone around everywhere this week, resulting in some odd looks and questions. Then I'd have to explain what happened, or simply say "It's a D Flight thing." When asked by the noob students in academics what it was, I said "It's a flight line thing, you wouldn't understand." Speaking of which, we finally got our red solo patches in the mail, which is sweet since now we don't have to wear our black name tags anymore. It's basically a sign that you're brand new when you wear the black patch, so we've moved beyond the rank of chump to semi-knowing what we're doing.

I did well on all my rides this week, and will be going to my check ride on Monday. This is the first big evaluation ride I'll experience, so it's a little nerve-wracking, but I feel good about it. There's a lot of general knowledge questions asked, as well as the actual flying skills and such. So far our flight has done pretty well on this check ride, so here's to keeping up the streak.

We are also preparing to take our Instruments 2 exam tomorrow morning, which does kind of suck seeing as how I have the check ride to study for, but overall I'm not particularly worried about it. We've had about four review sessions for this exam, and there's really a finite amount to know about this portion of academics, as with any portion.

It's been an interesting weekend... to say the least. I've enjoyed it for the most part, though today was very rough. Ended up making the best it, but my day definitely could've been better. A little sad that Spain really underperformed in their game today against Brazil... but you can't win all of them all the time. Here's hoping that this relatively bad day is a sign that tomorrow will be good.

Tune in next week for how I did!

Take care.

~ Dakota

Monday, June 24, 2013

Week Twelve: Soloed! ...with mishap (heh heh)

So this week was a pretty good one, I'd say. Overall that is, there were definitely some downsides to it, but the big picture was positive. Also this is a very picture-intensive post!

As you can guess from the title I soloed the T-6 this week! It was a pretty awesome experience, when you think about the magnitude of it. Basically I was given permission to take a $4.6 million dollar aircraft up in the air and fly around alone! Pretty amazing. It was so much quieter without an IP in the back seat, but along with that comes the knowledge that your survival depends upon YOUR actions and decisions. Pretty sobering, but overall pretty sweet.

IP's out!
Not a bad day job
Prop's spinning, chocks out

Now there was a mishap as well... and it was my fault. I'm sad to say that my solo didn't go as well as I would have liked. I was approaching the end of my sortie and had just taken off from my last touch and go before I would full stop. Up until this point I had not been getting "closed" which is essentially a short cut in the traffic pattern to turn right around after taking off, flying the length of the runway, and landing in a short amount of time. This is the ideal. Otherwise, we have to fly a large outside pattern which takes up a considerably longer amount of time. So I kept requesting closed but I never got it. So I was getting a little peeved. I had gone around the box about 6 or 7 times by the time I got fed up and decided to just land and call it a day. Well on my last takeoff, I was a little more worried about getting my closed request approved than I should have been, and it led to me forgetting to raise the flaps on my wings. I raised the gear, no problem there, but for some terrible reason I guess I thought I got the flaps when I hadn't.

So I was flying along at normal traffic pattern speed (200 knots) thinking everything's good, when I notice a weird feeling in the atmosphere of the plane. It was a slight rumbling, both a noise and a motion, and I quickly looked down to see what was wrong. That was when I saw that my flaps were still in the takeoff position. A few choice words were shouted... and I quickly put them into the up position. By that time it was too late: I had oversped my flaps by a whopping 50 knots... So I did the right thing and requested the high pattern and a chase ship to check out my aircraft to ensure there was no damage.

Once you request the high pattern, pretty much everyone in the area knows you did something wrong, so I felt pretty crappy throughout the rest of the flight. But, as the aircraft commander, I had to see it out to landing. It's not like someone's just going to magically transport into the back seat and solve all my problems. So I went through chase aircraft procedures in my In-Flight Guide, and soon enough another aircraft was joining up on me to check my wings out. It was actually pretty cool to see them that close! They were about 30 feet off my wingtip, and soon enough when we start formation training, our wingmen will be even closer. Very cool to see.

Anyway he told me my plane looked alright, so from that point on I flew at about 130 knots with my gear and flaps down and landed via a straight-in approach. Everything went fine.

On the ground, my buddies all were waiting for me. As I strode back in to them laughing at me and taking pictures, I couldn't help but crack up as well. I had screwed up pretty big time... but the important thing was that the plane was landed and I was on the ground safely. That's an important thing to remember; if nothing else went right, I'm alive.

So they escorted me to the solo tank, and proceeded to dunk me, all the while spouting off things like, "Whoa there! Going a little fast!" and "What are your flaps set to?" and stuff like that. Yeah, I've earned some ridicule.

Everything removed for the solo tank. Like the socks?

On Friday I was nominated for the bone. After some pretty embarrassing remarks from my buddies, I was voted to it unanimously. So I've been carrying around this giant freaking dog bone which you can see in the above pictures.

This weekend my mom flew a trip to Tulsa, so I drove over to see her! It was the first time I'd seen family since February, so it was pretty awesome. We hung out for the day, but she had to leave early the next day, so I headed back to Enid and had a good time the remainder of my weekend.

~ Dakota