Today was graduation. 54 weeks of fun/pain/work/play ending in getting my wings. It was all worth it, I'd do it again if I had to. The graduation ceremony was this morning at 1000. Class 10-05 was sitting in the back in their service dress, just like we were sitting in the back of class 08-05's graduation a year ago. It's weird thinking about all that's happened and things I've done since then, and knowing those guys are all just getting started with it.
We have our graduation dinner tonight, it's a formal deal, us in mess dress and so forth. I guess it's an awards banquet, but whatever. I have to get into the penguin suit one more time!
Anyway, I think this will be my last entry in my blog, I don't see a need to spill the beans on the rest of my life, I'm sure the SERE guys already have enough to hang me with when I go! Thank you to every one who wished me the best and supported me through this process. I first logged on to Baseops.net forums in 2002 when I started the process of getting a commission in the Air Force and becoming a pilot. Now, here I am 7 years later with Air Force pilot wings on my chest, about to head off to my dream plane at my dream base. Overall, it's taken 13 years since I stepped on the yellow footprints at MCRD San Diego (almost to the day), and there's not a single thing I would change, from the route I took to get here to the time line itself. I've received nothing but good advice from this place (Baseops), and I really do hope that what I've written will take some of the "stress of the unknown" away from those just starting the process of getting their wings, and return to Baseops some of what it gave to me. Bottom line: work your butt off to get here, it's worth it.
I'll still look at the comments on here, and if anyone reading this has any questions in the future, you can PM me too.
Hey all, sorry I didn't post more details before this, they've had me flying my butt off since assignment night. The way it works after after your Nav check is this:
4 Formation flights
2 <Simulated> Air Drop flights
2 <Simulated> Air Refueling flights
1 Co-pilot flight
Then you have assignment night. If you assign to a plane which does air drop, then you have 3 more air drop flights, another co-pilot ride, and an air drop checkride. If you track to a tanker, it's the same except you do 3 air refueling rides and an air refueling checkride. If you FAIP or track to a plane which does neither (UAV, U-28, MC-12, C-21, etc...) then they just pick which track you finish out on. I did air drop since I'm going to the C-17, and let me tell you, air refueling flights are WAY easier to plan and fly!
Anyway, I had my checkride today, did very well, and now I'm done! Next Friday is graduation, where we actually get our wings, but for all intents and purposes, I'm done with UPT!! Woohoo!
So we only get 4 "actual" formation flights, by which I mean only four flights where you work just on formation flying. After that, we do simulated airdrop and air-refueling flights, all of which are done as a formation.
We're also in the process of filling out our drop requests at the moment. Should be interesting to see what happens!
Finally go my Nav check out of the way before the holiday break last week. I did extremely well and am very happy, hopefully that will make up for my dumb mistakes on my Trans check! When we get back from the break, it will be straight into formation and Mission Fam (simulated air-refueling and air-drop flights). Only 4 weeks to Assignment night on Jan 29th!
One week until I Nav check. I was flying only once a week for the last few, which sucks because you lose a lot in that week. Checklists don't go as fast, your not as smooth on the landings, etc... but I've flown twice this week so far and will probably fly on Thursday and Friday as well. That's good, because the flying in general goes a lot better, but bad in that it can be draining. Regardless, I'd rather be flying than not. I should two-check on Monday then do the Nav check on Wednesday. Lot's of stress!
The days are still about the same, show up at 0800 or so if your not flying and hang out until 1300 or so, or show anywhere from 0700 to 1200 if you are flying.
Back to it!
So I'm about 3-quarters of the way through the Nav phase of T-1's now, which, they say, is the "meat and potatoes" of T-1 training. Had my first low-level flight yesterday, it was fun flying 230 kts at 500 feet, but the completely flat terrain of northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas doesn't exactly inspire youtube videos of yanking-and-banking through canyons... not that the T-1 ever would anyway! There's a number of guys in the "senior class" of my flight who are now Nav-check complete, and are happy to have it over with. It sucks that you have the pressure of your ENTIRE flying career come down to one checkride, but what can you do? I should be there in a few weeks.
I can honestly say I'm still having fun... when I'm in the air. It still makes the rest of the a$$-pain worthwhile!
Just got back from my cross country. We only get one while we're in T-1's and more than likely it will just be a one-nighter during the week. Some people get to do them over a weekend, by not many. The other student I was with and I went to Omaha then spent the night in Denver. On the way back, we stopped in Rapid City then came home. It was cool getting out of the local area and doing mission planning on the road.
I'm now finished with the first half of the Nav phase of training. I, as well as most of my class, am WAY ahead of schedule because the weather has been mostly good and our flights have been going as planned. At this rate, pretty much everyone should be Nav-check complete well before Christmas, which is cool. Supposedly only our flights through the Nav check count towards our class standing, so it will take a load off of us for the Christmas break if we're done before then.
However, we've also been told that some people have been slacking off after their Nav check and have actually been kicked out of pilot training because of it! I guess the last 3 people to be dropped out of T-1's have made it all the way to the Mission Fam phase! Therefore, I'm definitely going to be staying in the books even after I'm Nav-check complete.
Back to it!
Had three rides in the "Nav" phase of training now. Good times! Pretty much every ride in the Nav block is an Out and Back, so now I've had lunch in Lubbock and Ft. Worth with the T-1. I'm planning on going to Abilene on Tuesday 'cuz I hear there's a fantastic steak place open in the evenings called the Beehive. We'll see!
The flights are usually two hours out then 2 hours back. You fly someplace about 30 min away, do a bunch of approaches, then continue on to your "outbase" another 30-45 minutes away, do another approach or two, then land and get lunch. One student takes the trip out, then the other student takes the trip back, unless only one student, then you get both legs.
Still having fun! (when flying)
Had a great flight, only 4 downgrades, and I hook for ground stuff!! I'm a dummy, it was my own stupid fault, but I'm not going into specifics. I just need a swift kick to the jimmy. All my flights have been great up to now, and hopefully that will continue. It just sucks that I get the hook on a check ride! Oh well, guess I have to take my lumps and move on. Ground-88 tomorrow.
The days are still the same. Show at 0530, start briefing between 0600 and 0700, takeoff between 0800 and 0900, fly for 3.2 hours or so, spend an hour debriefing, then grab lunch and study until 1730. Airshow at Vance this weekend, I'll be selling burgers or something on Saturday morning, come say hi!
I'm up to 9 flights now, still doing good. I need 4 more flights before my first checkride, the "Transition Check". I went to Amarillo today to do touch-and-goes. Nice, place! LONG runway, but lot's of birds. Which reminds me, I hit a bird a couple flights back, and didn't even know it! We got on the ground and did a walk-around after the flight, and had a big bloody smear across the right of the nose! It didn't do any damage (to us anyway) so it was no big deal.
These 0530 show times every day are getting REALLY old though. We're usually done flying by 1230 or so, but then have to sit around "studying" until 1730. There's only so many hours a day you can spend staring at the Dash-1 before you you just want to stab yourself in the eye! Oh well, I keep telling myself I'm "living the dream". The flying is still a blast, it's the rest of the stuff that's getting old. I guess there's still no place I'd rather be though!
Had my fifth ride today, went really well. I needed to do a "pattern only" flight, so this was it. I got like 10 landings in. The aircraft control is pretty much there, and my SA is definitely bigger than most with my prior Nav time, but it's also definitely not where it needs to be. I'm starting to get to the point where I don't have to worry as much about my aircraft control and can start concentrating more on expanding my SA bubble. I missed some stuff today, but it was good training.
Last week we were in at 0730 or so because it was a night week, but now we're back to 0530. It's rough getting back to the go-to-bed-early-so-you're-not-dead-the-next-day routine.
We also had our Enroute Nav academics test last Friday, supposedly the hardest class of them all. Everybody passed though. We're doing Systems 6 now, which is all about the weather radar, autopilot, etc... It's not bad, mostly CAI's, which I like.
Back to it!
Flying is going well, but I've only had two flights so far. My third will be tomorrow. I'm actually really surprised at how much better I did on my second flight than I did the first. I think it was just not flying for a month that did it. I was by no means perfect, and made some mistakes, but did some of the landings, maneuvers, etc... really well too. I'm not the only one in my class to make these comments either.
The days are long, again. Last week we were in at 0500 every day and usually didn't leave until 1700. Lot's of studying, stand-ups, and shotgun questions. They start you out fairly easy, though, plus my class got to see what the senior class was being asked, so we pretty much know what's coming. The guys who were Navy trained down in Pensacola are having a bit of a rougher time than those of us who went through T-6's too. It almost makes me glad I didn't go through Pensacola myself! It's not the flying itself they're having problems with, it's learning all the Airforce publications, how to do stand-ups, what kinds of questions will be asked on the tests, etc...
This weeks work hours are bit nicer because it's a "night week" for the base, meaning all the T-6/T-38/T-1 guys who need night flying time can get it in, and it happens once every three weeks. We're not doing night flights yet, but we don't have to come in until 0700, which is nice. Bad part is we don't leave until 1900. Oh well.
Had my dollar ride today... very cool! The plane flies a bit easier than the sim, but not by much. It was also nice to see how they do it "on the flight-line" vs. in the sim (checklists, etc...). We took off, went to a MOA for about 50 minutes, then went to McConnell AFB to do touch-and-goes. It's pretty nice to be up at 15,000 feet doing 300 indicated! Seriously cuts down on the drone time between places. We flew for a total of about 3.5 hours, split between two students, which I guess is about normal. My next flight will probably be Wednesday, along with more academics... ugghh!
Bad thing is we're back on 12 hour days and formal release. We'll probably be in at 0500 every day this week. Oh well, it's 2030 and I'm going to bed!
Sorry I haven't posted for a bit, but academics is kinda boring to talk about unless your actually here. The stuff I'm learning about the plane, i.e. what all the switches do, how the electrical system works, etc... is pretty cool for me, but I'm sure you would all fall asleep if I started talking about how the DPU interfaces with the EFIS and the IAPS and is controlled by the DCP.
The days are still fairly easy. I got ahead on my CAI's and so got to sleep in until 1130 on Monday and was still done with everything by 1245. I'm doing lot's of studying of the checklists with my buddies, and going to the gym a bunch, but that's about it.
The sim missions are cooler now, though. Had my second "real" sim today. They take 3 hours a piece, and that's not counting the 1 hour and 15 minute brief and 1 hour de-brief! You're paired up with another student, and so spend the first half of the sim as the pilot or co-pilot, then you swap and do it all over again. The T-1 flies like a pig!
We have our third test tomorrow, this one over the avionics. I don't know if it's just because I've already seen stuff that's similar or what, but these tests seem a lot easier than the ones for T-6's. It's not just me, either: out of 13 people each taking TWO 27 question tests, we've had a grand total of 5 questions missed! Maybe we just finally learned how to study, who knows?
The more academics I do it seems this is a pretty cool plane! A lot more power than the T-6, we're supposed to pull up to 15 degrees nose-up on take-off, and climb at 220 knots! The T-6 was 10 degrees nose-up and 160 kts to compare.
There's a ton more to learn about this plane than there was with the T-6 though, which I guess is to be expected. There's a crap-load of stuff in the checklists you have to memorize too. The T-6 checklist said "Trim - CHECKED" and you just ran the elevator, rudder, and roll trim to see if it worked. The T-1 checklist says "Trim - CHECKED" except you have to do a 5-minute multiple-step procedure involving all the normal, emergency, and disconnect trim switches, by both the pilot and co-pilot, with everyone, including the crew chief, having very specific responses. And it all has to be memorized! I've been told that once you get it down, it makes more sense and really only takes about a minute, but it's fairly intimidating right now. And there's a bunch of checklist items like this! Oh well.
The days are still short, in at 0900, done by 1300 unless you're doing a sim. In that case you might be in at 0600 or not done until 2000. We haven't had any of those yet though.
We have to do a PFT before our dollar ride though, so I've been spending a bunch of time in the gym getting my but back in shape. Feels good... when it doesn't hurt like hell!
Back to doing CAI's again... (that's "computer aided instruction" for those of you who don't remember my posts from 6 months ago... what, you don't study these things??)
The day after track select (yesterday) we showed up at the T-1 squadron at 0830 and got a couple of briefings from the flight commander and the SQ/CC. We'll still have another "15 day program" and be on formal release at first (12 hour days) but we were told it's much more of a "big boy program", i.e.-not as much IP harassment, the program is hard enough by itself, which sounds fine to me.
Academics mean short days again: in at about 9, done by 2 or 3, depending. Two classroom lectures and a metric crap-load of CAI's already completed... many many more to go...
T-1 dollar ride will probably be in about 4 weeks, I think I'm suffering flying withdrawl...
Got my #1 choice... T-1's!
We had two get T-38's, two got UH-1's (they both wanted them... including one of the Top Sticks!), two got T-44's (they put T-38's first but are happy with T-44's), and the rest of us got T-1's (including the other Top Stick).
We start T-1 academicsat 0830 tomorrow... I'll let you know!
Half-way done with UPT!
My Formation checkride and last Low-Level were yesterday. My complete dork of a Form partner and I did really well, we both received "excellent's". I had about 5 minutes to prepare for my Low-Level after the checkride, but luckily one of my flightmates was cool enough to do pretty much all my flight planning for me. He was already done with T-6's and knew I'd have min-time between my checkride and LL, so he hooked me up!
The LL was fun and quick, no biggie.
So now I get to sit around until next Tuesday for my Track Select! I'll write more after that and (hopefully) let you know what T-1 academics are like!
To the Maj at the SUP desk today who reads my blog: here's my next entry, thanks for reading!
I've done one of my two low-levels now and have started the last block of formation flying (4 flights) of my training in T-6's. The low-levels are fairly low threat. You only do two of them, the low-level charts are already made up for you, and an Excel sheet calculates all your airspeeds for you. You fly it at a constant 210 knots ground speed, so just adjust your airspeed to maintain your timing. Assuming all is well with the bird condition and weather, you fly them at 500ft above the ground, which is pretty cool.
My form partner and I (they do their best to have you fly all 18 of your form flights with the same guy) did really well today double-turning (two flights in one day). We were hanging in there really well during the lazy-8's (it's actually called "wing work") and are getting the aerobatic portions down really well. We're double turning again tomorrow, and the plan is to do our last checkride this Tuesday. I'll probably end up doing my second low-level after my checkride (which would make it my last ride in the T-6) but that's fine with me, I taught probably over a hundred low-levels as a Nav instructor so they're not hard.
The days are staying fairly easy. Showing up between 0630 and 0730, done by 1430 or 1500 at the latest. No more stan-tests and and no more stand-ups... YEAH!!
Getting close to the end!!
So once you get towards the end of T-6's (at least at Vance), they have you go over and do a T-38 sim. At this point, no one (except for the Navy guys) know what we'll be flying for Phase III, and supposedly this sim has nothing to do with that selection (no one at Vance even sees the results, they just go to Randolph for statistics). Anyway, it was fun. You take off from Randolph AFB in your T-38, and fly an ILS at 250 knots. Then again at 300 knots. Then again at 350 knots. Over and over until you're flying the approach at 600 knots! Making your turns at the right places in the radar pattern is pretty interesting at 600 knots!
Formation is going better. It's quickly becoming easier to hang in there in fingertip while doing the lazy-8's. We had the first Air Force guys in my class do their final checkride today, but I left before they got back so I don't know how they did. I'm sure it was fine though.
Couple more weeks!
My Form Solo was this morning and it was a blast! It's so much nicer being out in the area with someone to play with (sts). The other plane had an IP and one of my classmates working up to his Form Solo. We did a bunch of lazy-8's while -2 tried to stay in fingertip (5 - 10 feet away), and bunch of pitch-outs and rejoins, then went to Extended Trail (ET) Lvl 3. ET is when both of you have your power set at 85% and -2 tries to stay in sight of lead about 500-1000 away at about their 4 or 8 o'clock position. Lead starts yanking and banking up to 120 degrees, 3-4 Gs, using big lazy-8 maneuvers. If -2 is in sight of lead on the inside of all the turns, then lead can take the formation "over the top", i.e. loops, barrel rolls, cloverleafs, cuban eights. If you're solo, you can't go over the top if you're -2, but you can lead the formation over the top. ET Level 1 is just level turns, Lvl 2 is the big lazy-8's, and Lvl 3 is over the top. Good times!
We've had 3 of our Navy guys finish their Form Solo's now, and because they aren't going fighters, they're done with T-6's. Navy fighter guys and all the Air Force guys have like 10 more formation flights after their solo.
So, couple more weeks and I'll be T-6 complete!
Done with 6 form flights now, and it is getting easier to stay in position. I only flew once last week because I messed up my back working on the house last weekend. I wasn't hydrated enough before flying on Friday and we were doing formation aerobatics. All those G's about made me puke! I didn't though, just kept flying. If you puke on any flights after you solo, it's an automatic hook, and we have had two guys in my flight blow chunks on formation flights because you're always looking around. They're fine now though.
I probably have about two more weeks of flying before I'm T-6 complete, then sitting around until track select on July 22nd. We've already had one Navy guy finish.
We had our last stan test this past Friday... woohoo! And I have to brag, I ended up with the top stan test average in the flight!
T-1's, here I come!!
The days are much more relaxed now. 4-5 hours of work, a couple more studying, and we're done! Not too shabby!
My formation flying is getting better, I can hang with lead a bit easier than for the first 2 flights. Our days are shorter now. If we fly first go, then we only have to hang out until second go leaves to go fly, then we can go home. Works out to be about 7 hour days now.
The weekly stan tests are still kicking peoples butts. Luckily I haven't busted one since the first one, but a lot of people have been busting multiples, which means they have to take a retest, then another retest if they don't pass that one, then on to a Ground 88 (or 89 if they already had an 88). If they don't pass that, they're out of the program.
We finally had our solo party last week, which was a good time. We got named (for as long as we're in T-6's anyway) and got stories told about us by the IPs who solo'd us out.
It's amazing getting back into the pattern here after our form flights. We normally break up the flight after coming back, and just do a bunch of touch-and-go's on our own. What used to take all my concentration, such as staying on airspeed, altitude, ground-track, etc..., now comes like I've been doing it my whole life! It's seems so easy now. I hope formation flying eventually gets to that point for me...
Yup, instrument complete, now straight into Form. I'm not going to lie, the first flight scared the crap out of me. Flying 10 feet off the guys wing with 90 degrees of bank just doesn't seem right (at least not when I'm the guy doing it!). Overall I had fun though, it should be a good time.
Was supposed to have my second Form flight today, but due to the "mishap" we might not be flying for a bit, I don't know. Unfortunately, all we're allowed to say is that both pilots are OK, and the MIB is investigating.