Sunday, November 17, 2013

Weeks 32 & 33: Dollar Ride and Trans

Hey there,

Sorry, I was a bit lazy last weekend despite it being a three-day, so I'll just cover the past two weeks in one post.

Well, I finally flew the T-38. It was definitely something new, the amount of power you feel on initial takeoff is something else. It makes the T-6 look like a joke. Kicking into afterburner while stationary on the ground just gets you moving so quickly, before you know it you're screaming along, ready to rotate at 145 knots. Climbing away, you get the gear up and it goes even quicker, and you've got to bring the nose 15ยบ high just to maintain 300 knots. It's pretty incredible.

Before all that though, you do the standard scheme of a flight in UPT: prepare and plan for the sortie, brief it up, grab your gear and step to life support, then run through ground ops. The brief is much the same, though we do a lot more prep and they expect a professional and quiet student. You speak when spoken to, and only ask a question if they ask if you have any. Below is a picture of our briefing board, which we prep for each flight.

It outlines the mission data, objectives, and the EP of the day. You also prep the normal stuff, to include weather, bird status, and NOTAMs (which are temporary changes to airfields).

This time, the big change is now that we strap on our parachute instead of the light harness the T-6 used. So you've got a big turtle-shell on you along with everything else. We have to ride a bus down to the 38s, and finally stepping out toward your jet is a pretty good feeling. I still was in a surreal state of mind when I climbed up the ladder to my cockpit and started running through ground ops. Starting up the engines in this plane is a much more involved process, especially for the crew chief. They have to connect compressed air that starts the engine blades rotating, and from there we hit the start button and advance the individual throttle. They also help with the flight control surface checks, since it's difficult to see them; you're pretty far forward and they're all a ways behind the cockpits.

Taxiing out is pretty cool too. The weather's been fairly nice, though a bit cold, but we almost always taxi with the canopies open, a definite change from the T-6. With the engines sitting behind the cockpit, you're not worried about them hurting you, so you can taxi convertible-style all the way until you're ready for takeoff. We also taxi much further, out to the outside runways which are much longer than the T-6 runway.

The takeoff is awesome, like a described. You just rocket down the runway, accelerating like crazy. However, there is a worry about engine failure and your ability to either stop in the remaining distance or continue the takeoff. Since we have to go so fast to takeoff, the stopping distance is pretty large. Likewise, with an engine failure, your output is greatly reduced, so you've got to accelerate much more in order to lift off. Basically it boils down to a go/no-go speed which we would abort prior to and takeoff after.

The rest of the flight goes extremely fast, since you're burning through gas so quickly. In the T-6, you could spend 30 minutes in the area doing maneuvers and then head to our practice landing airfield for some landings before heading home. Now we just hit up the area for 20 minutes or so, then drive straight back to Vance for a couple patterns and landings and then full stopping.

I've flown five sorties over the past two weeks and all of them have last one hour on the dot. So the average sortie duration is much shorter. You just have to be that much better, since you don't have the luxury of repeating maneuvers.

It's pretty awesome though. I'm definitely enjoying it, in spite of the long hours and studying. It's pretty amazing to be flying a jet like this, something I'd not get to do in any other aviation program.

Looking forward to the next couple months!

~ Dakota

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Week Thirty-One: Weather Week

As you can probably guess, this last week was heavily influenced by the weather, mostly in a negative way.

We ended up having a stretch of stormy and overcast weather hit northern Oklahoma for most of the week, which really messed up any plans for dollar rides this week. Monday was the soonest that any of us were ready to fly, but each flight got cancelled due to low ceilings which made it impossible to open up the traffic pattern. And the whole point of these first few rides is not to fly instruments but to get us used to the ground references and visual flight.

So Monday went down the drain, followed by Tuesday and Wednesday with the same, if not worse, conditions. Rainy, sleety, cloudy conditions prevailed throughout most of the week. Thursday was pretty interesting though; it was by far the worst weather of the week in the morning, but by afternoon it was sunny and clear. We actually had rides get cancelled in the morning go, and then those who got nixed got to see the later lines go out to fly. So 14-08 had its first flights in the T-38 this week, which is pretty sweet.

I had been a bit behind due to the way scheduling has gone, so the weather didn't affect me too much. I simmed quite a bit this week, finally finishing up those that would opt me to fly. When Friday's schedule showed up, I was on it. 1206 would be my takeoff time, and the forecast showed clear skies and great weather, if a bit windy.

Here's where the weather screwed us again. Because it was so nice on Friday, the schedulers decided to scratch our dollar ride lines and send up formation solos that needed to fly before they would have to fly a dual sortie again due to time constraints. The syllabus is a complicated system to explain briefly, but basically they needed to send up the solo students in order to prevent having to give extra dual flights. With the way budget issues are right now, it makes sense. So us new kids got to wait around, though we helped out with the Halloween treat-or-treat going on in the squadron. Families of the pilots working at Vance got to go through and get candy from us, and there were Halloween decorations and whatnot.

So Monday should be the big day, I will be sure to talk about what it's like to fly the 38 so stay tuned and have a good week. Looking forward to flying again!

~ Dakota