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

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