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