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