Sunday, April 28, 2013

Week Four: Aero, Sims, ...Donuts?

Hi everyone,

Things are going well here! The weather's been all over the place, but besides that everything is fine and now I'm just enjoying my weekend. This week was a lot busier than the last ones have been, but overall went pretty well.

We started studying aerodynamics on Monday, which basically means everything concerning the fundamentals of flight. Lift, drag, weight and thrust all play a huge role in why an aircraft can fly, and they depend on many different factors. So we spent the week learning (or re-learning) why planes stall when they do, why they will go into spins, and what different airfoil (wing) shapes do with respect to lift. Pretty interesting stuff, actually much better than learning systems.

The downside is that the workload was much higher this week. We had at least three CAIs per day, and one or two instructor-taught classes on top of that. Still not too bad, just more to accomplish throughout the day. In addition to that we had two simulator rides this week, but unlike the first two "switchology" sessions in the sim, these were actually graded and required a lot more preparation.

First we got completely into our flight gear. This means you first put on a G-suit, which wraps around your stomach and then tightly is zippered down your legs. There's a hose coming off it that you attach to a nozzle in the jet. Then, when you pull G's in the air, the mechanism it's attached to will fill these air bladders inside the G-suit to help you retain blood in your upper body. The fit is extremely tight, so by the end of the ride your legs are pretty stifled and sweaty. Now add on the harness, gloves, helmet, 100+ degree temperatures in the summer, and the greenhouse effect of being under a glass canopy...

G-suit from the front (not me btw).

Next you have to put on your harness which functions to strap you into the jet. There are two shoulder buckles and two side buckles that are vital: they attach you to the parachute and seat survival kit, respectively. You also have a lap belt and leg restraints attached to you, so you're in there pretty good. Also, we put on flight gloves and Velcro our sleeves closed around them. Finally you put on your helmet, attach all the oxygen hoses and communications cords, and put the visor down. In flight, your entire body is covered by stuff, and all of it is fire-proof. Well, I should say fire-resistant up to a very high temperature. But basically it will keep your skin from getting directly burnt in the case of a cabin fire, or from the canopy fracturing system (CFS) detonating and pelting you with shards of plexiglass.

These sims focused on running through all our checklist items. It's not like a car where you just hop in, buckle up, start it and drive off! There are about 140 checklist items before you even start the engine! And then even more as you prepare to taxi, takeoff, and fly. Air Force flying is extremely procedures-based, and it's done to make sure we're safe. For example, the biggest threat to our safety while on the ground is accidental activation of the ejection seats or CFS. Even on the ground we have the capability to eject, so it's very important that the safety pin remain in the ejection handle right up until we're at the runway.

Overall I did a pretty good job with the checklists, but what makes or breaks you is knowing all of the callouts and challenge-response items. There's a lot of verbiage that we have to know for many of the checklists. My first ride I got an E! Which is the highest grade you can get. The grading scale goes: NG, U, F, G, E. No grade, unsatisfactory/unable (you don't want a U as your overall grade), fair, good, and excellent. So I was happy to get that grade, only 7 people in our class got Es.

We also took our aero test and I got another 100%, so that was freaking awesome. These tests aren't gimme's, there are a lot of tricky questions on them that you really have to think through. So getting 100s is no cakewalk. I was hoping that I could keep up my streak, and was thrilled to see that I did.

During my evenings, I try to relax as much as possible and give myself at least an hour or two (if possible) devoted to not studying, but I always get into my notes and flight documents to study or "chairfly". Chairflying is when you, go figure, sit around your house in a chair and pretend to fly, haha. It sounds childish but it's actually a huge factor in making you a better pilot. Frankly there are not enough sim rides and actual flights to make you proficient, so you have to "fly" as much as possible to get enough practice. You do this by setting up your gear as close to real as you can and going through the motions of your sortie. Some guys even take the cutout of the instrument panel and side consoles that we have and construct a mini-cockpit made out of cardboard! Or you can go the classy route and tape them up in front of the toilet and chairfly/study that way. Whatever works. Haha, I just lay them on my counter in front of me.

My chairflying set-up. Not much but it works. Those are some of the checklists we run through, there's quite a few and those are only two of the pages.

On Friday my second sim ride was scheduled for 4pm so I was done around 6... not a fun time. Plus some CAIs I needed to finish up, so that made it 7pm. The good news is I got another E! It's one of those things that you don't just get, but you have to work for. Really motivated to keep up my excellent and 100% streaks that I have going.

We also experienced something pretty cool on Friday morning. Class 13-08 (notice anything similar to my class 14-08?) just graduated and we went to their ceremony. There were a lot of family members present and we saw what planes the graduates will be flying and where they'll be heading. Then they got their wings pinned on. It was pretty cool to see it happening, but sobering to know that we have an entire year before we're there.

On a much lighter note (and as alluded to in the title of this post) we had some donuts involved in this week. Our class policy for late-shows is that person owes the class donuts (or bagels, etc). I was unfortunately late one morning last week (dang alarm clock) and so owed one day. Well on the particular morning that I had PLANNED to go get donuts, I overslept again! So I was at two days. We also had a couple other guys late this week, so my class is pretty stocked up on donut-debt. Well I got up nice and early one morning, drove to the gate, realized I forgot my ID (which gets you ON base), drove back and got it, then finally went off base and got the donuts. And barely made it back on time... haha. So that was my donut fiasco. On the plus side everyone liked them, and it doesn't hurt to build up some good will.

That's about it for this week. We had an outing to Buffalo Wild Wings on Friday night and a birthday celebration on Saturday, so it was a pretty good weekend of fun. Getting ready for next week now!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it! See you next week. Sorry, not too many pictures available/interesting enough... Haha. Here's one of my "March Mustache," something most pilot-types do during the great month of March. We had a Mustachio Bashio at the end of the month to celebrate our manliness/creepiness. Don't worry: it was gone by April 1st!

~ Dakota

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