Sunday, April 27, 2014

Week Fifty-Five: Wings

UPT is over. I've finally received my wings and aeronautical rating as an Air Force Pilot.

It's been such an awesome year, and I've gotten to do things I didn't think possible. Some of my best memories were made here, along with some lifelong friends. Alongside the good were the tough times as well; it's been a very taxing and stressful year during many stretches. But overall I can say that I wouldn't want to have done anything else.

I finished my final four flights of pilot training this week, starting with a four-ship on Monday. I was #4 again, so things went a bit smoother than the first one. Tuesday rolled around and I was scheduled to double-turn from a four-ship to my last low level. The four-ship was interesting; our flight lead had a bad jet, so we ended up doing a flight split, first doing "four-ship" maneuvers as a three-ship and then splitting off into separate elements to do two-ship stuff. Later as our flight lead landed, we got some pattern work in as well. So that flight was a 4-, 3-, 2-, and single-ship ride. The low level was expeditiously planned and executed, as my turn time between briefs was very quick. After landing, I logged onto a computer to check the schedule and discovered I was now triple-turning into my last ride.

My last ride was pretty cool, it was an F58 ride, so I was paired up against a solo IP and we did a lot of tactical and lot of perch setups. Overall it went alright, and as we came back and rolled up initial, it was awesome to think about all the great times I had over the past year in the T-6 and T-38. I had my last landing as a wingless student pilot, and as I walked away from the jet, I tapped her on the nose, just like my last flight in the T-6.

My last board of UPT

The rest of the week was devoted to finishing the last couple things necessary for graduation, like getting our class gifts all settled, doing a walk-through of the proceedings, and welcoming family to town. I had a couple more people here than I did for assignment night, and it was really cool showing them around base and of course the sim.

One of my guests is a retired Brigadier General, TP, who flew the F-16, who swore me in as a second lieutenant two (!) years ago at graduation from the Academy. He hopped in the sim and right away felt at home. He had a blast getting back into the cockpit he had flown so much in, though this time there was a HUD and multiple advanced systems that the old A models didn't have.

We all gathered up for a family celebration Thursday night, and TP had some gifts to present. First he gave me F-16 lapel pins and tie tacks to present to my mom, dad, step-mom, grandma, and great uncle. Then he gave me his first set of wings, both large and small, to wear on my service coat and blues. That was unbelievable. He also had an awesome F-16 1:100 scale model to give, along with his F-16 patch. It was a great night.

The next morning was graduation, and I don't have words to describe the feeling of receiving my wings. I still can't believe it.

That night we had our graduation dinner at a local country club, which was a very fancy occasion. Everyone was in their tuxes/dresses, and we were sporting mess dress, wings gleaming on our chests. A couple awards were presented, speeches were given, and videos were played. Plus the food was awesome. We then stood up and completed an age-old tradition, the breaking of the wings. The first set of wings given to new pilots in the Air Force are never actually worn. The wings we were presented at graduation had been scored to be easily broken, and since that morning we hadn't put them on at all. At the dinner, after snapping our first set in half, tradition states that the new pilot would keep one half and would give one half to a loved one. So, like my first set of jump wings which I wore for 24 hours straight and then gave away, I presented my mom with the other half. The two halves can only be joined again when the pilot has passed away.

We then received our official aeronautical ratings. A lot of the class then went to change for a night out at the normal haunts. All in all it was an amazing weekend and I am stoked for everything that's up next. I've gotten training dates, so the next six months are all laid out. I'm heading to the centrifuge again for the 9 g profile next, followed by survival training in Washington state and water survival in Florida. After that I've got about two months before the Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals course in San Antonio, TX. So I'll get the chance to fly the T-38 more here at Vance in preparation for that. Then after IFF, I'll head straight to Luke AFB to start the F-16 B course. It's awesome knowing what I'll be doing, but there's going to be a lot happening very soon and we'll be busy training, moving, and studying.

Just because it's the end of UPT doesn't mean I'm at the finish line. Really, I've just crossed the starting line. The next few years will be even more stressful and difficult, but the payoff and the experiences will be that much more awesome.

If you've read from the beginning all the way to this point, I thank you. A year and three weeks is a long time to continuously read anything, and I'm grateful. To anyone looking to follow in what I've done in UPT, my best advice is this: take everything one step at a time. Whether that means one day at a time, or even one flight at a time, just focus on that one thing and make it your best. You don't have to be the best every day, just give your best every day. Don't take anything for granted, there are thousands who would kill to be in your shoes. Lastly, take one moment during each flight to look around at what you're doing and recognize how amazing it is.

This will be my last post. UPT is over and since this blog is titled "My JSUPT Experience" I'll put it to rest.

This has been one of the best years of my life. Cheers!

~ Dakota

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Week Fifty-Four: One more week

Finally down to the last week of UPT!

After a long year of training, only five days remain before we get our wings. I've got four more flights to complete before that happens though, so this week will still be full of flight, at least for the first couple days. Hopefully I can double-turn and knock them out on the first two days of the week. Two more four-ships, a two-ship proficiency ride, and a formation low level will be my last rides of pilot training.

I get to see family and friends again, which will be awesome, especially after only two weeks.

My first four-ship this past week was a pretty awesome experience. I was #4, which is pretty difficult actually. You're on the outside of the flight most of the time, which puts you "on the whip." Basically any movements #3 makes you have to deal with in addition to #1's. So they're amplified a bit and you have to maneuver a bit more than you do as #2 or #3. VERY cool to see three other jets in close proximity to your own though. One of my favorite things was completing the battle damage check at the end of the sortie. 2 checks out everyone's jets, and then 4 checks out 2's. As I moved back over to 3's wing, it was pretty sweet to see three jets flying in fingertip right in front of me.

My first two-ship proficiency ride, or F58xx ride, was interesting as well. You fly as #2 the whole time, and your flight lead IP intentionally does things to mess with you and get you out of tactical position, like speeding up/slowing down randomly, overturning/underturning tac turns, and climbing/diving without notice. As a wingman, it's your job to be in position, so you just have to fix the problems he gives you and do your best to stay there.

That's about it, some pretty cool experiences and still riding the high of finding out I'm heading to the F-16. One more week!

~ Dakota

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Week Fifty-Three: VIPERS

Assignment night finally arrived this week, and as you can probably guess from the title of this post, I got my first choice: F-16s to Luke AFB!

I am extremely stoked, it's still sinking in and it's pretty unbelievable to know which plane I'm heading to.

The week of assignment night flew by. Before I knew it my dad, mom, step-mom, and sister had arrived into town. We spent a lot of time checking out things around the base, like our flight room, the life support area, the flight line and the T-38, and the simulators. They even got to try their hand at flying the sim, and it was pretty funny seeing some of the things they did while flying. My favorite was my little sister pressing the pickle button to release a bomb, and then when I told her to roll right and pull away, she rolled inverted and pulled, then pushed forward to try and get away from the ground, under-G-ing and crashing anyway. Good stuff haha. But my family had a great time with it overall.

We had to go to a couple briefings and finally it was time to head over to the Vance Club to get our assignments. It's tradition to make a giant wooden copy of your class patch to present to the wing commander, so that was placed up front covered by a sheet. The guy who actually made the giant patch and I, the designer of it way back when, revealed it.

Then came the assignments. It was a very surreal experience, seeing my friends get their aircraft and locations. I couldn't believe it was actually happening. As I stepped up to get mine, my heart was pounding with anticipation. They of course made fun of me pretty good, but that's to be expected. I turned to look up at the screen that would reveal my plane. And there's where my soul got crushed… well at least for about 30 seconds or so.

They got me pretty good. The slides that revealed our assignment start out with a big globe, and it's centered on Vance AFB. It then moves around showing various locations before finally settling someplace. Mine moved from Vance to Offutt AFB, NE, which houses the RC-135. Then to Tinker AFB, OK, which is the base for the E-3 AWACS… so far, not so good. Then it moved to Robins AFB, GA, and the plane that popped up was the E-8 JSTARS, which is a command and control plane that manages battlefields from the sky. Not. Good. I stared up at the screen in disbelief, but managed to shake our MC's hand and salute him before walking slowly back to my class. I looked once more back up at the screen, and all of a sudden, the globe appeared again and moved over to Arizona. I saw Luke AFB pop up, and then video clips of the F-16 flying around appeared. I couldn't believe it. The room erupted after the fake-out and I doubled-over out of excitement. It was one of the best feelings I've ever had. Preceded closely by one of the worst haha.

Anyway, after a weekend of celebrating, it's back to the grindstone as we start up four-ship formation this week. Two more weeks to graduation and I couldn't be more ready to finish strong and move on to bigger and better things. It feels amazing to finally know what I'll be doing, and where I'll be doing it. I have a lot of hard work cut out for me now, but the payoff will be tremendous. Here we go!

~ Dakota

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Weeks 51 & 52: A Full Year

It's officially been a full year since pilot training began, and I'm still amazed at how quickly it's gone by!

As of today I am five days away from knowing my fate; where I'll be headed and more importantly what I'll be flying. It's an amazing feeling, but a nerve-wracking one as well. All I can do is sit and wait, there's nothing more I can do to influence my standing. Our dream sheets are in and the mind games begin i.e. thinking about what-ifs.

So, to get to this point I'll briefly cover the past two weeks. I was just about ready to check and in fact should have checked on Wednesday two weeks ago. But due to both weather and the fact that my check partner was solo-stopped (he had to do one more form solo and the weather wasn't good enough) we delayed until Monday of this past week. I actually also got changed to a new partner, and we flew together the last one or two rides before our check ride. We had a third go check ride, so there was plenty of time during the day to prepare ourselves.

After a particularly horrendous display of darts talent during our throw for the check ride profile, we managed to get the exact profile we wanted and she would be leading out. Perfect as far as that went. We planned out the sortie based on what the profile required and made up data cards for it. Then it was off to brief and fly.

Despite some crosswinds that almost pushed us to a weird takeoff situation, the weather wasn't all that bad, just a few clouds relatively low to the ground. We started up and taxied out. I was definitely feeling nervous but ready. We took off and almost immediately went into some clouds, but I was in fingertip by that time and besides we shot out of the clouds right away. Past that it was clear skies. Out to the MOA for the profile and honestly everything thing pretty smoothly with the exception of a weird turn that my lead signaled that didn't work out that great and my first offensive set of the perch setup. The perch setup is essentially the building blocks for dogfighting, which we'll see at IFF if we get a fighter. So they introduce it in UPT so that you've at least seen and done it.

Anyway I called terminate and we set it up again. That set went better. The thing about the formation check is that you're really pressed for gas. There are quite a few maneuvers you have to do as both lead and wing, so you've really go to be efficient. If you don't get to all the required items before hitting bingo fuel and heading back to base, it's an automatic hook.

We got everything done though and I was leading the second half of the sortie so I started us home. Despite almost running out of time to do our battle damage check on the way back, we managed to get back mostly hassle-free and rolled up initial for single-ship landings. This is a good thing, since formation landings are difficult. We do at least five throughout UPT, but they're still not an easy thing.

Back inside to get debriefed, and of course they bring up every negative thing we do. Which is normal, it's a check ride you expect that sort of thing. After getting the two-ship debrief we watch the lines. The T-38 has a data card that you use every flight. Afterward you can take it inside and load the flight's data onto a program that allows you to see your exact parameters with respect to the other jet, even drawing a moving plan of each jet's flight paths. This is awesome because it allows you to see how well or badly you did, and it's a good tool for getting better.

After that it was time for EP and GK, and then single-ship debriefs. By this point we were pretty close to crew rest being done, so this was pretty expeditious for me. I ended up getting a 4E! This was a huge relief, and I'm happy that I could finish up T-38s with 4E's on my last two check rides, especially after my 13U on trans check. This was the tied-best form check score for G flight; I tied our Polish international student. Yeah, pretty stoked about that.

Now we wait. We got some capability briefs on Friday, telling us about different planes and their missions. Pretty sweet to hear about some of them in more depth. Anyway we submitted our dream sheets on Friday. We had a list of 21 planes to choose from and this is what I submitted. I have a couple different "groups" of what I want, and I'll elaborate on that.

First group: Fighters. 
1. F-16 to Luke AFB, AZ
2. A-10 to Davis Monthan AFB, AZ
3. F-22 to Tyndall AFB, FL
4. F-15E to Seymour Johnson AFB, NC
5. F-15C to Kingsley Field, OR
6. T-38C FAIP to Vance AFB, OK

I picked these first obviously. The F-16 has always been my first choice, and I put the A-10 second because of its air-to-ground role. Yes I know it's supposedly got a short remaining life, but it's been "finished" before and yet it's still around. I included T-38 FAIP as a "fighter" because it's an indirect path to get one down the road.

Second group: If I don't get a fighter, what would I want to do.
7. U-28 to Cannon AFB, NM
8. AC-130 to Hurlburt Field, FL
9. T-6A FAIP to Vance AFB, OK
10. MC-12 to Beale AFB, CA
11. C-17 to Charleston AFB, SC
12. B-1 to Dyess AFB, TX
13. B-52 to Barksdale AFB, LA
14. C-130 to Yokota AB, Japan

These were more difficult for me. I ended up showing that I wanted to go into AFSOC if I didn't get a fighter. The U-28 is a spec ops plane that does some pretty sweet stuff all around the world, with a high deployment rate and a rewarding mission. Same with the AC-130. If I can't get into Air Combat Command, I'd at least want to so AF Special Operations Command. T-6 FAIP is up there, sort of the same idea behind that as T-38 FAIP. I could still get a fighter down the road. After that, I picked things as I would want to fly them. Once again, MC-12's are AFSOC-type jets and I have the bombers there behind the C-17.

Third group: No, thank you.
15. KC-135 to Mildenhall RAFB, England
16. KC-10 to Travis AFB, CA
17. C-21 to Yokota AB, Japan
18. EC-130 to Davis Monthan AFB, AZ
19. RC-135 to Offutt AFB, NE
20. E-8 to Robins AFB, GA
21. E-3 to Kadena AB, Japan

For obvious reasons I don't want any of these. Flying a tanker/cargo/reconnaissance jet wouldn't be my ideal in any situation. But we still have to place them on the list so I went in descending order which would be the least bad. These do have overseas assignments, way more than the initial phases of fighters, but that's not what I'm here for.

Anyway that's the list. We'll see how it goes on Friday! A few of my family are coming out to see what happens, and I'm pretty stoked.

Only low-levels and formation out-and-backs left to complete!

Take it easy,

~ Dakota

Monday, March 24, 2014

Weeks 49 & 50: On the Brink, Back Again

It's getting really close now! I counted it out and after this post I'll only have two left to do until the week of assignment night. Very crazy…

Anyway a lot of stuff has happened over these past two weeks, so I'll get right into it:

We've hit a string of extremely good weather recently, so it's been pretty non-stop as far as flying goes. Needless to say we've been busy, but the end is nigh and the stuff we're doing is awesome, so it makes the day go by a bit better. I flew eight events in five days in week forty-nine, so a TON of flying which helped to catch me back up to be on track. Overall things went pretty well, and I got one more solo in before the end of the week.

Unfortunately, on Friday I hooked a ride. It was a daily ride, so nothing that would be unrecoverable, but it still left me with a crappy end to the week. But that's not all! Even better, we were scheduled to fly on Sunday as well, and I was the lucky guy chosen to fly with the squadron commander…

It was a very bad ride. Despite trying to do my best, I messed up some pretty big things and overall the S.A. of the flight was just not there. As my wingman and I sat awaiting our debrief, we both knew we were going to get destroyed. And we did. So that was two hooks in a row. I've never had that happen before, so naturally I was pretty worried. I didn't get much sleep that night, thinking about what could happen and my future in the Air Force. Especially since on Monday I was scheduled with the group commander next.

Monday's brief came up, and I got switched last minute to another IP, and I was pretty relieved. Weirdly enough, my flight lead's gear didn't retract properly on initial takeoff, so it was an incomplete ride and I would have to wait until Tuesday to clean up my hooks. After waiting another night, I flew on Tuesday and managed to clean everything up.

The rest of the week was filled with flights, and I got a lot closer to my form check ride. With two solos still to go, four rides overall, it would be a good opportunity to practice everything and get all prepped up for the check ride.

Stressful couple of weeks, some days worse than others, but overall my eyes are on the prize and now just got to finish off strong. Hope your weeks went well!

~ Dakota

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Week Forty-Eight: Tactical Formation

Well, we started up with Tac Form, which has been pretty awesome. This is the last big thing we'll learn in UPT, and probably the most important, since the fighter world uses tactical a lot. There are fourteen rides in the tac form block of training, which is the most so far out of any block. And they're all necessary, it is much more complex than baby form, transition, or instruments.

Tactical is basically a type of formation used for a bunch of different things; combat, transiting to and from airfields, keeping the formation far apart so it's harder to get eyes on each aircraft. It's very flexible since there's so much room between each aircraft that abrupt turns can be made without having to deconflict immediately, and you're always fighting to be in position, even though fixing one problem usually creates another. It is pretty sweet though, a lot of fun to think quickly and be ready to turn at the right time and be in the right place.

The distance in tactical is about a mile apart from one another, so the T-38 from that distance is pretty small. You have to pay close attention to what the other guy is doing, especially if he is leading, since he calls the shots and decides what maneuver is up next. You are line abreast as well, so you're looking right over your shoulder to see the other plane. You're deconflicted for altitude, which is number 2's responsibility, so whenever there is a maneuver with both aircraft turning toward one another, it's pretty sweet to see them pass pretty close to you screaming by as you're both going 350 knots. Really cool stuff.

I had my tac form dollar ride early in the week, and got to fly three days in a row, which was good exposure. One of the rides was pretty rough, but overall the week went well and I'm pretty stoked to fly some more. Hopefully the weather cooperates and we'll be able to get a lot of flights done.

Getting really close now. Only one month to assignment night, so the end game is here.

Hope your weeks were great.

~ Dakota

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Week Forty-Seven: Formation Solo

It's been a pretty good week, the weather cooperated with us and I got the chance to fly solo in a two-ship formation on Friday afternoon.

I had three tours in the RSU as spotter this week, which is when you ensure the 38s landing on the outside runway don't land gear up. We have to do this from time to time as students. Usually it goes for two hours or so, and it's not too bad, just another thing we have to do.

I only flew twice this week, but both times were pretty sweet. The weather was sunny and the sky was pretty clear, so we got a lot of sorties launched. Funny, since it's snowing like crazy today. Anyway, my last formation ride before solo was a pretty good one, I flew with an F-15C instructor who had some good feedback and was pretty chill. You have to fly your solo with the IP who flew backseat on the ride prior. So on Friday afternoon when I was scheduled, we briefed up the flight and stepped out to our jets.

We taxied out, and I was leading out. We went out to the outside runway, which is supervised, as solos always have to do. After getting everything all checked out, we taxied out onto the runway and started the engine run-up. After both jets are parked and ready to go, the lead jet looks over to #2 and waits for him to nod. Lead then points upward and moves his hand in a circle to signal "run it up" and both pilots look at each other while they run up their engines. #2 then checks out his engines and nods again, after which lead checks his engines over and then signals brake release and selection of MAX power. For my solo, though, we did a 10-second interval takeoff. So after I checked out my engines, I just took off without signaling for simultaneous brake release.

The solo went really well, we went through the entire baby formation profile and had a lot of gas to spare, so we got a chance to do more fighting wing and extended trail which are important for judging aspect, closure, and using geometry and angles, instead of power, to stay in the proper position. We switched leads and I practiced everything on the wing, which is a bit more challenging than leading. But my wing work and rejoins went pretty well and overall it was a pretty awesome time. We flew back to Vance and rolled up initial for normal landings. My IP went around for two landings and I full-stopped. We met up on the ground and taxied back.

Friday was also pretty sweet since there was an assignment night. The T-38 drop was pretty sweet, there were three F-16s, a T-38 Aggressor, and a B-52. Overall not too bad.

It was a good end to the week.

~ Dakota

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Weeks 43, 44, 45, & 46: It's Been Awhile

Well, it has been a long time since I updated this.

A lot has happened in between now and my last post, but overall things have been pretty good. We started up with formation, and we've been going pretty strong into it despite the fact that we still had to complete our instrument check rides. So I ended up switching back and forth between form rides and I rides, about three at a time until there were no more instrument rides. This spanned the entire four weeks, we had about a week and a half of crappy weather before things starting looking pretty nice outside.

Formation is pretty sweet, it's a bit more difficult due to the higher speeds we're going, which makes flying in close formation very pitch-sensitive. It's a lot of fun though, and I've definitely been enjoying it. Overall you're held to a much higher standard and they expect perfect radio communication in addition to better flying skills. Essentially in the first couple blocks of formation, we do everything we did in T-6s with a couple of changes. These couple of flights are known as baby form, and once we solo, we then start up with tactical formation, which is how the fighter world actually flies formation for combat. So that will be cool to learn.

While doing formation, I also got closer to my instrument/navigation check by doing out-and-backs. These went pretty well, and I went to airports I hadn't seen yet, just to have exposure to each of the possible check ride profiles we can get. After the last one, we can throw darts for which one we'll get. I ended up throwing profile 1, which includes a VFR portion, an ILS, a localizer, and using ground-based navigation aids. I also threw Amarillo as my airport. This was a day prior to the check ride, so I got plenty of time to prep. The big day rolled around and I did my final preparations and planning, then briefed up the sortie with my IP.

We flew out to Amarillo, and despite a few errors initially, I calmed down and flew pretty well. One big thing that happened was we encountered some unexpected icing in the clouds. The forecast said that icing would only go up to 20,000 feet AGL (above ground level) so we were flying at 24,000 feet. Despite that, we still got some icing, which my IP was really mad at himself for letting us level off in. I was under the hood in the rear cockpit, so I couldn't see anything anyway. We continued to Amarillo and I shot my two approaches (one better than the other), and we landed after some normal patterns my IP flew. We shut down, did the forms and went inside to eat, while my IP called the supervisor back at Vance and told him what had happened.

Due to the icing we got, we had to cancel the second sortie. The engines could have possibly gotten some of the icing, and they would have to be inspected by maintenance. So unfortunately we would be driving back to Enid, which is a good six hours away. Fortunately, we could count the check ride as complete and I hadn't done anything to mess it up so far. So it would come down to the ground evaluation, which would be accomplished in the car on the way back. So it was a bit awkward, but overall not too bad.

I ended up doing alright, and he told me my grade which was an E overall with only four downgrades. So I was pretty happy about that, plus that fact that the rest of the car ride wouldn't be as awkward. We ended up talking about his career and flying the A-10, which was pretty cool to hear.

That's about it. Now I only have formation left, along with a couple of transition rides which are just for stall currency, low level rides, and one last night instrument ride. It's getting close now, assignment night is less than 2 months away and it's crazy to think about.

Hope your month was an awesome one, and you enjoyed it. Thanks for tuning in, even though I haven't written in a long time!

~ Dakota

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Week Forty-Two: Cross Country

You guessed it, this week's post is all about our T-38 cross country, which we did this past weekend (hence the late post). This was a pretty cool experience, and a helpful one. Because this cross country sees us a little wiser when it comes to instrument flying, the weekend went much smoother than the T-6 cross country. The locations, however, were a bit subpar, but not horrible.

We spent almost the entire week planning and preparing, finishing up our last couple of instrument rides that would opt us for the cross country. This involved dividing up the labor so that each of the eight of us would complete different tasks and help everyone out. We also started thinking about ideas of where to go. Originally we had planned to go west, staying the nights in Phoenix and Denver. This would have been a pretty awesome time. I would have been able to see family once again, and overall those locations are just better then where we ended up.

Due to budget and maintenance issues, we were told we'd be doing the "Texas Tour." Essentially this meant we would be limited to flying around Texas and staying overnight both nights there. Because the T-38, especially recently, has shown a tendency to break down, the distance we could travel was reduced significantly. So Fort Worth would be one of our full-stops, and Houston the other. Only THAT was changed as well, so we would be staying in Oklahoma City the second night. Yeah. Super far on this cross country.

I'm not complaining, the flying was still good and the lessons learned were good as well. We saw a wide variety of instrument approaches and conditions, and there were two night flights as well, which were awesome as always. I got to shoot two radar approaches, where the controller tells you where to turn and when to descend for the entire approach, maintaining contact with you every five seconds or so. We also saw Class B airspace, which for anyone who doesn't know, is the busiest type of airport airspace there is. Think Denver, Chicago O'Hare, or JFK. The margin for error in airspace like this is much smaller, due to the huge amount of traffic and the amount of professionalism expected.

Overall the weekend was pretty awesome. My IP was great and I did a pretty good job, so that makes it a successful weekend regardless of our destination. Yeah, I would have liked to get out of the Midwest for a bit, but we still managed to have fun.

I got back Sunday afternoon to find that I was scheduled for my first formation ride on Monday. As of this writing, I have flown in formation in the 38! But I'll get into that in the next post.

Take care and have a good week.

~ Dakota

Monday, January 20, 2014

Week Forty-One: Transition Check Ride

Pretty busy week, a lot of flights and a lot happened. I was only three rides away from my Transition check ride, so I finished them up by Tuesday to be ready to check on Wednesday. The weather has actually been pretty amazing, with some slightly gusty winds. Anyway, my last three flights went well, so I was ready to go for the check ride. We briefed up and headed out to fly.

The check ride profile calls for a heavyweight simulated single-engine straight-in touch and go. So we went around the pattern for the landing, and as we were taking off to head out to the MOA, the gear wouldn't retract normally and I had to quickly reduce power and pitch up to keep from overspeeding. As I did so, my IP took the aircraft and from that point on, I didn't fly at all. It was an Incomplete overall, given that I hadn't messed anything up so far.

We couldn't fly later that day, so we ended up postponing until Thursday. Took off at about the same time and the conditions were about the same, so nothing major had changed. I didn't have to do the heavyweight pattern delay again, so we headed straight to the MOA. Overall I flew okay, but not my best. My patterns and landings weren't the greatest either. Overall I wasn't feeling the greatest with how I did; it was one of those flights where despite your best efforts, things just kind of turned out bad.

We resumed the ground evaluation, having started it the day prior, mostly doing a couple of Emergency Procedures. You have to talk through an EP, saying what you would do in the case of it happening for real. There is a very specific way you do this, and there's always a couple "gotchas" that can screw you over. My first one was a fire warning on takeoff, and I talked my way through that one just fine.

The second EP was my last thing I had to do on the check ride. It was a specific type of engine malfunction where you have to shut down the engine, but before doing so, the emergency checklist tells you to check the AC generator crossover (which allows one generator to power the entire electrical system). If the test goes bad, you can simply turn the generator back on to perform a couple of important actions before you lose electrical power to those items. So it's vital to do this step.

What ended up happening was I read through every step in the checklist (like you're supposed to) and thought to myself, "OK, I will definitely check crossover like the checklist says and then shut down the engine." But right after I thought that, I immediately read off the engine shutdown steps and said out loud that I would do those. So basically I completely ignored the checking crossover step. Immediately after saying I'd shut the engine down, I realized what I'd done, but from that point there's really nothing you can do. I felt sick to my stomach that I'd literally just thought, "Hey I'm going to do this," and then completely lose that thought for some god-awful reason. I still can explain to myself or anyone else how that happened. I just spaced it. And it cost me big time.

I ended up hooking the check ride for Emergency Procedures. He said my checklist discipline was unsatisfactory, and for that reason I would receive a U for the individual EP grade and for the overall flight grade. The silver lining is that I wouldn't have to fly, but I'd need to redo the ground eval the next day. He also debriefed me on various other things that went wrong, but none of them were complete deal-breakers. Meaning that had I just said five words: "I will check the crossover," I wouldn't have gotten into this mess.

Anyway, the next day I had the repeat ground eval, and it went fine. So yeah, that was my first hooked flight of T-38s, my Transition check ride. Not happy with it, especially since now I have burned my 88 ride (which is a progress check ride and there's only one). Anyway, it's over now and I'm done with Transition. We'll be doing our cross country next weekend, so this week will be full of prep for that. Formation is also not too far away, which will be awesome.

That's about it, a longer post for a busy week. Hope yours was better than mine.

Take it easy,

~ Dakota

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Week Forty: Maintenance and Weather Cancels

Hey everyone,

This weeks has been a pretty bad one as far as actually flying time goes. The number of cancelled flights due to weather and maintenance issues was insanely high, and barely anyone flew. It wasn't a total bust week, though; still managed to get up for two flights and a sim, and got back into the swing of things after a long break.

Monday was my first day back on the flying schedule and I was scheduled to double-turn so I could get to my Transition check ride this week. Due to the extremely cold temperatures and the fact that the jets hadn't been operated in two weeks, it was a real maintainer's nightmare. The first plane I stepped to had a fuel leak, so we had barely walked up to the crew chief before he told us to head to a spare. Then, as we started the right engine in that spare, the RPM wouldn't even reach normal limits, nor would engine temperature. Add that to the nozzles not opening at all, and you get a no-go, so we shut down and went inside. Out of the 14 lines scheduled first go, 10 jets broke. It was ridiculous, even for our 50+ year-old T-38s. The rest of that day was affected too, as only four planes were good to fly. So we all got MX cancelled.

I was scheduled for two more flights on Wednesday and actually flew both of them. The weather was perfect for my first Transition ride in about two and a half weeks. I did pretty well for having a break in training, and was looking forward to flying the second sortie. The weather was rolling in pretty quickly though, so we quickly started up, taxied out, and took off. As I went around the container for my simulated single-engine straight-in landing, ready for departure to the MOA, the supervisor called over the radio to everyone that we were in a weather recall and that all jets were stop-launched. So what this meant for anyone flying was that you either had to return to base or stay in the pattern. So, yeah, surprise pattern-only flight. Basically this gave me a good chance to work on my pattern ops and landings. I ended up getting 10 landings, so by the end I was feeling good about them again.

Thursday and Friday were all weather cancels, all the time. We barely flew, and I briefed three times for flights that would never happen. But I did get my last instrument sim (at least until we're opted for more of them), which went really well despite my not flying instruments for over a month.

We also had the "you're going on cross country in two weeks" bomb dropped on us, so we had to start thinking about that in addition to studying for the Trans check ride. We will most likely be flying west, so that would be pretty awesome. Initial plans are Vance to Albuquerque to Phoenix, then the next day from there ending up in Colorado, then home the next day.

That was about it, interesting week for sure. Good football today too!

Go 'Niners.

~ Dakota

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Weeks 37, 38, & 39: Two Solos and Winter Break

Well it's been quite a while, but I figured I'd finally get back to this blog. We had about a week and a half off for winter break, so there wasn't much to cover, with the exception of the last week of flying we had before going home.

The last week of work in the year 2013 was a pretty good one. I had two more solo flights which went extremely well. Both of them fell on perfect days with great visibility, good winds, and nice temperatures. It was a great way to finish up this year of flying. I actually was able to burn my HUD tapes to a DVD which I then brought home to show to family. The area work was pretty sweet, I did each aerobatic maneuver once which left me with the perfect amount of fuel to return home and work on the pattern. Reviewing my HUD tapes, I stayed pretty quiet the whole time, mumbling to myself only when I was doing a quick ops check or confirming the gear. They were both great experiences, and I look forward to the many formation solos we have in the future.

After two solos in a row, winter break was upon me, so I drove down to OKC to try and catch a flight. I was lucky and got on, despite my streak of not being able to get on using standby passes. After that I spent an awesome week and a half at home in Colorado and New Mexico, seeing family and friends and enjoying the break. It was a much-needed rest and a good Christmas and New Year's.

Back to the grind now and excited to get back up in the air. Hope your holidays were great as well!

~ Dakota