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

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