Monday, April 22, 2013

Week Three: Systems, Part Deux

Hello again,

Week three is all finished up, and it was overall pretty unremarkable, though there were some important parts. On Monday we took our Systems 1 test. This was a big one because it was the first one to have 47 questions and the first one concerning actual academics (physiology is kind of separate). I only missed one question, bringing my total to three. I set a goal this week to miss as few as I can from this point on. It's that sort of mindset that will get me a T-38 slot, as only the top members of the class have a shot at getting on. Academics only count for 10% of the final rankings, but every bit counts.

We started and finished studying Systems 2 this week, so it was a very CAI-intensive week. Like, three-a-day CAIs. Some of the systems are pretty gee-whiz type stuff (like the GPS interface) and the computer training can take a while to get through. But overall it was an easy week, since that was really the only thing going on. Topics covered this week were flight instruments 1 & 2 , communication systems, navigation systems, GPS, environmental system, canopy system, and ejection system. Most of this week centered on inside-the-cockpit stuff, such as programming radio and nav frequencies and deciphering what the hell the decades-old GPS system is trying to tell you. Seriously, it's a black and green display that shows text most of the time, and when it actually shows a picture with the route you want to fly it's so small you would have to bury yourself in the cockpit and not pay attention to what's going on outside. Good stuff right there...

To really solidify what we learned we had our second simulator "switchology" ride, this time messing around with the navigation instruments. Ever wasted time reading the instructions for some new device you got? Then discovered that by just playing around with it you learned how it worked? That's pretty much what the cockpit is like, messing with stuff until you find out how it works. The CAIs can only teach you so much... Anyway, at the end of the week we had the Systems 2 test. I went into it feeling alright, and ended up getting another 100%!

The large black square with two knobs and green text is the GPS. Not like what you have in your car, am I right?

The main instrument panel, motherload of displays. As you can see, most of them are electronic, which means a failure of your battery or generator will leave you without certain instruments.

Right forward console. The upper portion controls electronics and some engine functions, the middle controls the environmental system, and the bottom is the oxygen regulator. The simulator takes a beating haha, as you can tell.

Full view, with everything shut down and secured. The ejection handle is the black and yellow loop right in the middle of the seat, sticking up between your thighs when you sit.

On Thursday our squadron (the 71st Student Squadron) had to gather in an auditorium to hear from the Wing Commander (top dog on base) about the results of our recent Combined Unit Inspection (CUI). Overall our base did really well on this week-long inspection, which means no repercussions emplaced on us. So that's good news! We didn't do well enough to get an Outstanding Unit Award, but I'll take no additional regulations or enforcements.  That's honestly about it for the week, like I said it was a pretty uneventful one.

I wanted to give a quick background of some parts of UPT that I haven't mentioned yet. There are three phases: Phase I is academics, which I'm in right now. Phase II is T-6 flight training, and that's broken up into a few blocks. Phase III is advanced training in either the T-1 or T-38. The whole process is about a year long. In Phase II we will fly a few different types of training, the first being Contact. This is where we learn basic flight maneuvers and then aerobatic maneuvers. What does that mean? Some pretty cool stuff:
   - aileron rolls (DO A BARREL ROLL!)
   - loops (self-explanatory)
   - split S turns (flipping upside down and pulling until you're level again, turning altitude into airspeed)
   - Immelmann turns (opposite of a split S, turning airspeed into altitude)
   - spins (forcing the wings to lose their lifting capability, which is a stall, and then adding rudder so that you start spinning toward the ground)

After Contact, we'll fly Instruments/Navigation. This is arguably the hardest portion of UPT, and the most important. Flying on instruments means that technically you'll never have to look outside the aircraft, which seems completely counterintuitive. But this is the industry standard (when you fly somewhere on commercial airliners, they're flying solely on instruments). After that we fly Formation! Known as "form" around here, it's supposedly one of the coolest things you'll ever do. I can't imagine flying 10 feet from another aircraft's wingtip... And lastly there's Low Level, which is also extremely awesome. This is when we'll burn along the ground, which will be amazing.

Another part of life in UPT is Boldface/Ops Limits. These are handy little phrases and numbers that we have to memorize and know cold. Every week we turn in one sheet of Boldface to our supervisor. Hopefully it'll stay that way, but if we start messing them up (seriously ANY error or typo on ONE of the sheets is a failure for everyone) we'll have to turn in more. So far we're still at one per week, but we'll see how long that goes...

Side 1: Boldface. Anything you see in handwriting is what we have to know. These are emergency procedures that you need to perform as fast as possible (in order to live) so you have to know them by heart.

Side 2: Ops Limits. These numbers and phrases are the limits of the jet, and are important because flying outside these limits is not only dangerous but prohibited. Also they make GREAT quizzing questions for the IPs to grill us with...

Finally, I wanted to mention some terms I might be using in future blog entries. When I say "track select" or "track" that means which advanced trainer I go into. So "tracking T-38s" is being selected for a T-38 fighter trainer slot. "Dropping" or "drop night" is waaaaay down the road for me and that means finding out what aircraft I'll be flying for an operational unit. On drop night our class will find out what aircraft are available to get into, and some drops are better than others. Typically a good drop includes as many fighter aircraft as possible, some bombers, and maybe some Special Operations planes. This is assuming you're in T-38s. In T-1s, the drops will include different types of cargo transport and tanker aircraft, though there are still some pretty cool jobs that come out of it. AC-130 gunship, to name one. C-17s would be pretty cool as well. Whichever airframe I end up in, it's flying. Beats working.

There's an option in most drops called "FAIP" which means First Assignment Instructor Pilot. FAIPing means you'll have to stay at Vance and become an IP (instructor pilot) for students. This is a good and bad thing. It's bad because you have to stay around and teach snob-nosed students for two or so years. It's good because you get a lot more flight time in either your specific trainer or the T-6 and you usually you get a pretty good assignment after you're done being a FAIP. So it's not the end of the world.

Alright, that's it. Now that I've talked your ear off... haha.

Thanks for reading!

~ Dakota

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