Sunday, August 25, 2013

Week Twenty-One: Form Complete! On to Instruments

Hello again,

It's been a pretty good week! Once again I've been double-turning almost every day, but mostly the focus this week was getting to my Form check ride and knocking that out. After flying through the last rides of the formation block, I was ready to go on Friday for my check. What's cool is they schedule you for the last three or four flights with the same student on your wing, so you really get a sense for how they fly and vice versa. My check ride buddy and I flew pretty well together, which definitely makes a big difference.

Anyway we prepped up well with some final studying and chair-flying, and went in on Friday ready to go. The ride went very well for me, from first to last. I was on the wing on the way out and then led back. Overall everything was well-flown on both sides, and as I drove around the traffic pattern for my landing I knew I was good. When I greased the landing that confirmed it. I came out of that check ride with an Excellent! My buddy was nervous because he forgot an important checklist on the ground (the one where you remove your ejection seat's safety pin) but got a Good. So that was awesome, the first two form checks in D Flight and they were both passes.

Funnily enough, both him and I were scheduled for instrument sims right after our check ride, so we went off to those. I was pretty tired by that point, so my sim didn't go perfectly, but overall it was fine too. Sims really are dependent on who your IP is. Most of them are pretty old dudes who are caught up in their old glory days, and sometimes you get a sim IP who is just absolutely awful. There are four or five who when you see you're scheduled with them you just want to curse profusely... But other times you get a really good IP and it's much better.

Right now I am three sims away from being T-6 Sim Complete and I am now only about 17 T-6 rides away from completion! A lot of these rides will get knocked out over our weekend cross country coming up on the 6th through the 8th. Time-wise, we are a month away from track select as of tomorrow. So we're on schedule to complete T-6s and find out our next aircraft.

Starting this week those of us who went form first will be moving solely into instruments, just like the guys who went instruments will now be getting more form rides. I am also scheduled for two night rides tomorrow and Tuesday, so that should be pretty awesome! Even if there are no cloud layers to deal with, when you fly at night you HAVE to fly off your instruments since there are no visual cues available at all. Plus you're dealing with lighting issues in the cockpit, since the sun isn't around to light up what you want to see. It should be a pretty cool experience.

I am feeling slightly under the weather, so hopefully I won't have to go DNIF (duties not to include flying) tomorrow... But I'd also rather not mess with my sinuses by exposing them to higher altitudes and possibly end up with a sinus block. Not fun, plus I'd not be finished with UPT on schedule at all. One of my classmates had that happen to him. He's a 1st Lieutenant now since he waited an entire year before he could get into another class. A year in Enid, not flying?? Yeah, no thanks.

Take it easy!

~ Dakota

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Weeks 19 & 20: Low Level, Nav, Form Solo

Well, it's been awhile since my last post, but I've been quite busy!

The past two weeks have gone pretty well, but they've definitely been packed with lots of events, both sims and flights. I'm still rolling pretty heavily through both form and instruments. I've been double-turning almost every day, simming in the mornings and flying in the afternoon. At first the transition between formation flying and instruments was a bit difficult, especially in the same day. But now it's pretty much the norm.

Form has been going extremely well. My inclinations at the beginning of this block of training were right, and I feel confident that things will turn out well come track select. Speaking of which, we're only about one month away from that! I'm two rides away from my form check ride, so by Friday I'll have that complete.

My form solo was also last week! This was one of the coolest things I've ever been able to do in my life. This is a huge milestone for any pilot. It definitely hit me mid-flight that I was 10 feet from another aircraft and that there was no one else in my plane who could help me out. But the solo went perfectly and I had an awesome time. I even got in a little lag roll just before we started recovering to Vance (when you're in Fighting Wing position, which is really wide and far from #1, you have a big area to move around in, meaning you can barrel roll around #1 to get to his other side). It's kinda hard to explain... haha but it's pretty sick to do.

They threw me into my Low Level sim, as well as the string of three Navigation sims. Those have been interesting. The Low Level block of flights are usually the last in T-6s, and they're pretty cool so I've heard.

Ok... so we won't be THAT low.

Navigation is big, since soon we'll be going cross country over an upcoming weekend. It's actually pretty cool flying along jet routes from airport to airport along a planned-out route, you really get a sense for how quickly you can travel in the air. 102-mile legs just go by like that when you're cruising at 300 knots groundspeed. I am looking forward to cross country, hopefully we'll plan a route to Colorado and some other cool destinations.

Really, there's not too much to tell from the past two weeks (which is kind of sad haha) but they have really just flown by, and before you know it two weeks have gone by with no blog updates. The apartment stands semi-furnished, and finally I will be getting my full housing allowance next pay period so that will be pretty sweet.

That's about it, but I've got another good joke:

When I was in elementary school, I used to just sit around and look out the window all day. My teacher would get really mad at me, saying that I'd never go anywhere in life if just looked out the window all the time...


Stay classy.

~ Dakota

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Week Eighteen: Form

Well, it's been everything I thought it would be and more.

I love formation flying, it's the coolest thing I've ever done and I can't wait to keep doing it. I can't really describe the adrenaline rush you get from being THAT close to another plane while flying your own. It's amazing. Both flying wing and lead are fun, in their own way, but you really have to adjust your mindset when you're flying form.

As lead, you are responsible for the flight. So all of the radio calls, navigation, and decision-making are on you. Since Number 2 is flying off of your wing, you have to also be sure that you are flying a stable platform. Basically you need to be smooth and controlled when you start a turn or anything like that, so #2 isn't thrown wide/high/low without enough time to react. You're also very directive as #1. One of the funniest things you say as #1 is the call to tell #2 to get away from you as if he had lost you in the weather. It goes: "Axle, go practice lost wingman." I like it because it's basically like "Get the f*** outta here" haha. Axle is just one of the formation callsigns. We have to sign them out the day of our flight, so that no one else can use it. Otherwise it'd be disastrously confusing if there were two Axle flights flying at the same time. But the lost wingman thing is pretty important. On my first form ride (the form dollar ride, because we didn't fly too much) we quickly got into the weather. We STILL have to fly in formation, even in the clouds, so you've got to be really diligent and not lose your wingman in the grey haze. It's pretty crazy to see.

As Number 2, your biggest job is to not hit number 1! Your other jobs are backing up #1 on the radios, helping to clear for other planes, and trusting #1. I like flying wing more than leading actually. Your skills are really tested when you have to stay in a position that's set for you. It's difficult, because you have to adjust your spacing in three dimensions using the stick and power control lever (PCL). The stick moves you laterally and vertically with respect to #1, and the PCL moves you forward and aft. You are constantly moving them; there is no rest or break in adjusting the controls. As lead, you just set your power and trim up the aircraft to fly level (or whatever), but as #2 you are constantly fighting to get into position and keep it there.

At first it's a bit discouraging because you suck and you're flying all over the place. But as you get better and better, you get more stable and start to stay right in position.

The comms are a bit difficult at first, because you not only have to communicate with outside controlling agencies, but also with your wingman. So there are just more things to say. We also use a lot of visual hand signals which are pretty cool. You are so close to them that hand signals work really well. Think about that!! Some of the signals involve individual fingers sticking up to indicate numbers and such. Think about how close to someone you have to be to see individual fingers. Now imagine that distance but now you're both in two different aircraft!

Anyway it's amazing. It's also really cool to be up there with my fellow flight-mates and classmates. I've only been up with an IP in the backseat, but now it's another student and his IP. I think it's really cool to see that.

I also got thrown into an instrument ride, my first one ever. You have to wear a little hood thing while flying to restrict your vision of the outside. So you just have to fly off your instruments and hope you know what you're doing. Overall I didn't do too badly, but seeing as how it was my first one ever I was happy even with the mistakes I did make. But you have to sit in the back seat, you don't get to land at all, and you barely do any maneuvers. So form is much better!

That's it for this week, we're getting close now! September 26th is our track select and I'm getting stoked for the end of T-6s and the beginning of bigger and better things.

~ Dakota