Sunday, May 19, 2013

Week Seven: Time to Fly

Well, this is the week! We hit the flight line on Wednesday of this week and it's been a radical change from everything we've been doing so far. But along with other less-desirable changes, we also get the awesome parts as well: actually getting up in the T-6 and controlling this awesome aircraft!

Starting out on Monday, we went in for our initial brief with our new flight commander. It's kind of weird because our class of 27 now gets split up into two flights that do everything flying-related separately. I'm in D flight along with 13 others, the Delta Dogs. C Flight is the Cobras. Our flight commander went through a lengthy powerpoint presentation on expectations, and after that we got the rest of the day off.

Oddly enough, we also had the entirety of Tuesday off as well! So I took advantage of this free day by relaxing as much as possible and enjoying my remaining freedom from studies and stress.

Wednesday, it began. The 15 Day Program is the first fifteen days of flight operations in UPT. It's meant to suck, and they keep us pretty busy with things to do. A typical day looks like this: you show up EXACTLY at the designated show time; any earlier and you bust your crew rest period, meaning you have to leave earlier as well. We go on a 12 hour on, 12 hour off period, so they HAVE to release us at that 12 hour mark, to the second. They make a big deal out of that.

Most of D flight waiting outside until exactly our show time (I'm taking the picture).

Then we start our formal brief, sitting at attention while we're briefed the weather, notifications, and any other important info for the day. I haven't sat at attention since freshman year!! So that sucks. We also then have something called standup. Naturally, one of us is called to stand up and work our way through an emergency procedure. If you do something wrong, make the wrong decision, or kill yourself in this simulated emergency, you get told to "sit down." Which is bad. However if you successfully navigate the battle of wits with the IP running the emergency, you get told to "have a seat." Which is good.

We then have shotgun questions, during which they go around the room and throw questions out to each individual. So you better hope you know it or you'll be standing until they work all the way around the room and you get to try again. Because we're in the 8th Flying Training Squadron, we also have to know Warnings, Cautions, and Notes for every emergency procedure, meaning there's just more stuff to memorize.

Our squadron's sweet patch...

Then we brief to fly, or head over and do our scheduled sims. This is when we split up and do our own schedules, because everyone flies at different times with different IPs. On Wednesday, I was excited to get up in the air and do my dollar ride (first ride in an aircraft). But alas, I was fated to do a sim ride. So I gathered my stuff and headed over to the sim building to do another sim. Got another E, so that's good.

All of my classmates flew that day, except for me and one other. Not a big deal: the syllabus separates people naturally, because there are not enough sorties to keep everyone equal and sometimes people get sick or have issues that prevent them from flying. In that case, you might get unexpectedly bumped up to fly, so you have to be prepared for ANYTHING you're opted for. After waiting around for the 12-hour mark, we finally finished up and got released. At 8:30 at night. Woo.

Our T-6s. You're lucky if you get one under the shades!

Thursday I was on the schedule to fly! I was going to take off at 12:12, which is kind of cool haha (considering my Academy class year). But we got weather cancelled.... I actually got all done up in my G-suit and harness, got strapped into the jet, started it up, and then we cancelled and shut it down. Haha talk about anticlimactic. So I got moved to the later block of flights, and eventually got back out on the flight line. It was actually pretty nice, because it was much cooler, and that cockpit gets REALLY hot, especially under the sun.

Ready to go!

Well, we started it up again and started taxiing out! I had control of the aircraft, so I was ecstatic. It was surreal. I can't explain how cool it feels to be in this bubble canopy, looking out the front windscreen and seeing this massive prop blurring around. And how high it felt, much higher off the ground than a DA20 or anything like that. I was already in love, and we hadn't even taken off yet. We got to the runway and held short, doing our last checklist items. I was pretty nervous when I looked down at my checklist and the next step was "Seat Safety Pin - Removed and Stowed". This meant I had to take out the safety pin guarding the ejection handle. I carefully moved my hands to the yellow and black handle sticking up between my legs and grabbed the pin. My seat was now active and would eject me if that handle got pulled! For the rest of the flight I had to remember to keep away from it!

Pulling onto the runway was really cool, and eerie. The runway stretched off to infinity. My IP took control of the plane, revved up the engine, and released the brakes. We were off in an instant. It was such a rapid acceleration that I couldn't help but feel out of control, like when you're riding a bike too fast and you feel like you might crash. I had to remind myself I wasn't even in control haha, my IP was. And he knows what he's doing. In a flash we were going 85 knots, and we rotated off the ground. A few seconds later and we were at 100, 110, 120 knots and climbing. I remember thinking, "I can't believe I do this for a living."

Then we were off to our working area for maneuvers. The coolest part was flying through the low-hanging clouds in our flight path. It felt really weird to just fly straight through them. Even though I knew what was on the other side of them (nothing) it still felt like there was this big brick wall we were going to hit! You really cannot see ANYTHING through the clouds.

A couple minutes later and we were climbing up to 13,000 feet and the cabin began to pressurize. Finally, my IP asked that fated question, "Are you ready to fly?" I said I was. Then he passed it over to me, I shook the stick and said, "I have the aircraft."

It was really weird talking to someone I couldn't see, but who was sitting just five or six feet behind me. In every plane I've flown so far, the seats have been right next to each other. This was a pretty cool experience, feeling alone up front, but realizing the IP was also back there and keeping a watchful eye out for trouble. Soon enough we will be able to go completely solo, though.

When we got into our area, I started practicing some turns. It's crazy how responsive this aircraft is. Any slight movement of the stick and the wings roll quickly, or the nose pitches up or down. A bigger movement and you're at 60, 70 degrees of bank. I also felt my first substantial Gs in an aircraft. My IP took it back and did a quick turn, pulling around 3 Gs. I was surprised and didn't do any AGSM to help stay conscious. I started to get tunnel vision, and it felt pretty weird! After that I stayed on top of my G-awareness.

Not us, just a cool picture.

We also rolled inverted! This was the first time I've ever done that, and it was pretty sweet. Looking up at the ground above you is definitely a weird feeling haha. After messing around some more in the area we started to head over to our practice airfield for landing practice. You're moving pretty quick up there (usually greater than 200 knots!) and the ground definitely moves by quickly underneath you. My IP demo'd a couple traffic patterns and landings, and then gave it to me to try. I got a couple on my first ride!

We eventually headed back to base and landed, pulling off the runway and putting the safety pins back in our seats. Then we shut down and got out. The whole experience just shot by in an instant, but really took about two hours! We then went inside and debriefed the sortie.

It was an awesome experience and I couldn't wait to get back up. It made all the suckiness of the 15 Day Program worth it. Unfortunately we got weather cancelled again on Friday, so no one flew and we ended up getting released early (score!)

This weekend was fun, and I spent a lot of time hanging with friends at our local bar, Callahan's. It's pretty much the pilot bar haha. Overall it was a relaxing weekend. Now I need to study!

Sorry for the long post, but this first flight was worth describing!

~ Dakota

No comments:

Post a Comment