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

Monday, June 17, 2013

Week Eleven: Solos, Instruments, Patches

Hey there,

So this is a day late, I know. I didn't feel like getting around to writing last night due to studying, but better late than never!

This week was a pretty good one. All told, I had six sorties, consisting of four flights and two sims. I've gotten much closer to soloing now and am only one ride away! This week my focus during flight was on the traffic pattern, since that is what the initial solo is all about. Overall my flights went pretty well, and I was able to work out some issues with certain areas of my flying. Our average work day is getting much shorter now, as well as less packed with stuff to do, though there is still a lot and some days are fuller than others. Take Friday for example. I had to show late because of a sim that would last until around 8pm, and right away I took an EPQ (a weekly quiz we have to take). Then I unexpectedly was put on the flying schedule! So I went up for a sortie and it was a really good one. After landing, we went as a class over to the academic building and had our first real academic course in about a month. This time it was covering the basics of instrument flight, which is our next phase of training after Contact. Then right after that was my sim. So it was a true 12-hour day, but I still had the energy to go out that night haha.

We also had a lot more people solo from our class. The first ones were last week, which is an incredible turnaround. They were all from C Flight, so they've really been pushing them through the program. D Flight had its first solo this week, and go figure it was one of the guys who kept getting sick in his first few rides! So that's good for him. He doesn't like being the farthest ahead of us though haha.

Sadly, this week was also a pretty bad one for another member of our flight. I won't say his name, but he hooked three rides in a row, which puts you into an 88 ride. This is a progress check ride, essentially seeing if he's good to resume normal training. However, he also hooked that one, and was moved to an 89 ride, which is an elimination check. We were all hoping that he'd do alright on it, and actually I was flying when he was and he sounded ok on the radios. But he hooked that one as well. So he's now on the Commander's Review Process, which determines his fate in the Air Force. Talking with him, it sounds like he's accepted pilot training is not for him, and that he's going to try to head into Special Operations selection training. I say good on him for wanting to do that. He's a great guy, and I really do wish the best for him. It just sucks to see how quickly you can wash out, if you're consistently having bad flying days...

But overall, we're doing alright. I might as well cover today as well. We had our Instrument 1 exam and I passed, missing four questions. This was the most I've missed on one test, so I wasn't happy about that, but a pass is a pass I guess.

Oh! Something else that's cool: our patch was officially approved and I also got the finalized design back from the patch company I've been working with! So now we just have to wait for them to get here and then get the privilege from our flight commander to wear them and we've got our class patch!

Ain't Nobody Got Time Fo Dat

So that will be on our shoulders for the next year. I think it turned out pretty well (and I'm not just saying that because I designed it... haha). On Fridays however, D Flight concurred that we would have a Friday flight patch just for us. So this is what we came up with:

The reference is to a movie called The Other Guys, and I recommend watching it, because it's hilarious. So yeah that will be our little motivational patch for the day before the weekend.

That's about all I can think of right now. I'll probably remember something else that happened, as is usually the case haha.

Hope you are doing well and everything's good for you.

~ Dakota

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Week Ten: Late Shows, Long Week

Hey again,

It's late Sunday night, so I'm going to make this a pretty quick post. This week was quite a long one... seemed to drag on forever. The nice thing was our show times every day this week were between 10 and noon, which was pretty sweet.

Overall the day-to-day wasn't so bad. This was our last week in the 15 Day Program, so that was a cool thing to look forward to. I flew three times this week, and they were pretty good flights. I finished out the first block of training on Wednesday, which means I get to do new things while flying. Namely, spins. These were pretty cool: you basically bring the aircraft to a stall by climbing with power set to idle, and then right at the stall point, you add full rudder deflection in one direction, which sets the airplane into a violent spin towards the Earth. Pretty fun, like a roller coaster only there's no track. Easy to recover from too, so no worries about crashing and dying (unless you perform the recovery wrong). But mostly, the flights this week focused on traffic pattern operations and low-threat area maneuvers, the same as we've been doing in the weeks prior.

On Friday we had our first day outside the 15 Day Program. It was really cool, since our morning formal brief was vastly shorter than normal, owing to the fact that we didn't have to do a standup, shotgun questions, or say the notes-warnings-cautions! So that's something nice. We also got to have our first beers in the flight room. On Friday our flight commander went over to the "beer light" and flipped it on. We then sat around and discussed our week and also voted on who would have to carry "The Bone" for the next week. Basically whoever did the most stupid thing has to carry around this massive dog bone everywhere, even out to restaurants and bars and the like. Our reservist (the only non-Academy guy in our flight) was the unlucky guy. His was more of a cumulative two-months' worth of stuff though.

D Flight of class 14-08. The beer light is illuminated behind us to the left, our flight's patch is on the wall on the right. Pretty good group of guys!

We hit some CAIs again after quite a while away from that dreaded lab of boredom. They weren't too bad though.

I dunno, mostly it was a pretty standard week, but it just took forever to go by. I try and pass the long hours of the day by at least hitting the gym. Gives you a chance to not think and just work out. Vital, I think, in order to not lose sanity.

The weekend was nice, just a lot of hanging out with friends in the gorgeous weather. Honestly, life is good, and I find myself looking forward to going in to work, which is all I can ask for. But the time off is great too haha.

It's been getting pretty hot here. In fact this week, we're supposed to have temperatures in the 100s... Yay for heat waves.

Take it easy!

~ Dakota

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Week Nine: Cloud City

Hey again! Hope you're all well.

First let me say that this was a pretty awesome week, both on and off duty. I celebrated my 24th birthday yesterday, which was a really fun time. A bunch of people from my class and a couple other friends went out with me to celebrate and have a good time with friends, food, and drinks. It was a great night after a great day.

Rewind to Tuesday this week, when we went back to work and prepared to get some more experience under our belts. It turns out that I was on the schedule every day this week! So that was really awesome, actually flying regularly. I flew with my regular IP as well as a new one this week, but overall everything went well and I definitely got much more comfortable with my area maneuvers as well as traffic pattern operations.

I managed to get E's on all of my flights so far! So I will definitely be doing all that I can to ensure I keep up this pace. There were some weather worries this week, but overall I was able to get up in the air without any delays. Oh and don't worry about all the tornado stuff happening in Oklahoma: we've been clear of them so far. Actually it's been quite beautiful out this weekend.

There were two experiences this week that really stand out. The first was filling the recorder position in the Runway Supervisory Unit (RSU) which is essentially the tower for the single runway that we use. There is also the controller, who speaks on the radio to aircraft and grants clearances (the most difficult job, one an IP does); the observer, who clears his end of the runway (also an IP); the spotter, who gets the aircraft tail numbers and ensures their gear are down and locked on final approach (a more experienced student); and the recorder, who marks down every aircraft's tail number, callsign, takeoff and landing time, and any improper actions that they take (a newbie student). Everyone is working hard in the RSU, but for me, it was quite confusing and fast-paced to keep track of every plane and write down all this information. I missed a couple takeoff times, but overall I did a pretty good job. It was crazy because we had 12 aircraft in the pattern which is the max amount allowed, and about 8 of them were solo students. Pretty cool experience though.

The second was much more hands-on and enjoyable. On Thursday I almost got weather cancelled. In fact I did, and was just sitting down at a desk to work on something when all of a sudden my IP came rushing into the room saying that we were actually going to go. So I jumped up and grabbed my gear and we stepped out to life support to get suited up.

As we climbed out to the area to do maneuvers we encountered weather on the way, which is quite confusing to fly in. When you're in the clouds, you have no possible way of knowing your plane's orientation. No way, that is, without your instruments. You've got to trusts those things. It's really odd, your mind is saying "Oh, we're good. We're totally climbing and wings-level right now." Nope. You're actually 45ยบ of bank and descending. So you've got to keep locked on those instruments and fly what they tell you, and you'll be fine. Good lesson to learn.

The really cool part of the flight was in the area. Our alternate airfield, Dogface, was closed so we decided after doing our maneuvers that we'd just head back to Vance. But that would also give us 15 or so minutes extra to just do whatever. In this case, fly around these awesome clouds that were perfectly located in our area. Here's a picture of what they looked like, well at least as close as I could find on Google.

So in between all of these clouds were rifts, valleys, tunnels, and pathways that we zoomed through, turning just enough to avoid going into them but grazing the edge with the wings or the canopy, flying around, under, and over these clouds in whatever way I wanted. It was a pretty amazing experience, and I remember thinking "I can't believe I'm allowed to do this. I shouldn't be allowed to to do this. I get paid to do this." It was incredible.

I also had another sim ride on Friday, so all told I had four more rides added this week, which really caught me up. That's about all there is to tell, besides enjoying the company of friends this weekend and watching/playing a lot of soccer.

Pretty good week! Here's to a great one coming up.

~ Dakota