Monday, September 2, 2013

Week Twenty-Two: Sim Complete and Night Rides

Man the time seems to just fly by! I can't believe I'm less than a month away from track select. It really has gone quick...

This week was a pretty good one! Well, it started out kind of crappy but ended up being pretty cool. I DID get sick over the weekend, so that sucked. Just your normal cold-type symptoms, runny nose and all that. I ended up going DNIF, which means I couldn't fly until I got cleared to by the doc. So on Monday and Tuesday I simmed which brought me to having only one left! I knocked that one out too, so now I'm sim complete, which is a really good feeling. No longer do I have to go over to that building and listen to old geezers vent about how easy we have it with GPS nowadays... oh wait, yeah I do because there are still sims in phase three. Oh well, done with them for now.

I did start to feel better and got back on flying status, and then it was time for my night rides. All this week we've been showing up at about 3 pm, which is pretty awesome. However, if you are on the schedule to fly at night, you don't end up leaving work until about 11 pm. The plus side is that night flights are pretty sick.

The big difference is obviously that there's no light. This isn't a big deal while flying (well, sort of) but for ground ops it makes things interesting. Setting up the cockpit the way you want it is a bit more difficult when you're holding a flashlight in your mouth to see what you're doing. Fortunately, there are plenty of instrument panel lights to help you out, but the initial set up is frustrating.

You also have to change up the way you do your outer lights. We have four sets of lights: nav, taxi, landing, and strobes. The nav lights are the little green and red ones on the wingtips, so they're not too bad. The others can be a bit bright though, especially the flashing strobes. Typically you'll leave them off until you're well clear of other people, even other planes.

Taxi-out is the same, only you have to keep a larger distance between you and other planes. The same goes for landing. You need 6000 feet of clearance between planes as opposed to the daytime limit of 3000 feet. For our runway, this means that no one can be on it in order for you to touch down.

Once you're flying though, things get more familiar. Yes the cockpit is darker and there are lots of glowing panels and such, but the flying is the same as any other instrument flight. Outside you've got really no view, except when you're over a city or something. Then it's pretty cool to look out and check out the lights. It's pretty weird, like you're flying in this big black void where there's no sky or ground. That's what can be dangerous in mountainous regions: imagine thinking you're flying toward open air, when really there's a mountain in front of you!

I enjoyed it. I flew down to Oklahoma City for my first night ride. It was also my first time flying down there. It was pretty busy! There are a ton of radio calls you have to make, and this time you're playing with the big boys. This is an international airport, not just our training base. You really don't want to mess up there and cause a runway to be closed or something. That's a lot of money down the drain for those airliners, and the Air Force doesn't need a bad rap. But I did alright and got in a couple night landings as well! It's only about a 20-minute flight to OKC from Vance, as opposed to the 2-hour drive (more on that later...).

My second flight was to Wichita and that was cool as well. That fills my quota for night flights. Now I don't have to do one on my cross country, which frees up a lot of time.

So, I tried to go home this long weekend. Unfortunately it didn't work out. I drove down to OKC to try to catch a flight, but since I fly standby it isn't always a sure thing. So my flight was all booked up and that was the last one of the night. Major bummer... So I had a choice: to stay in the city and try and find something to do alone and someplace to stay, or make the trek back to Enid. I ended up going home and still had enough time to hit up Callahan's with some friends. My car was pelted with insects (seriously, it was disgusting, I hate the bugs here) so I gave her a fill-up and a nice carwash haha. It was a sucky night, but you can't win them all... Hopefully I can fly to Colorado next weekend, only this time the plane won't leave without me: I'll be flying it!

Stay classy,

~ Dakota

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