Sunday, May 2, 2010

Trying to stay on top of things

Picture of me after my initial pattern solo.
Initial solo takeoff on Vance Runway 17R

Taxiing out by myself for the first time!

Trying to stay focused after the dual portion of my initial solo

Strapping into the jet for the dual portion of my initial solo.

Sorry it's been a couple weeks since my last update! The past couple weeks have been pretty busy but also very productive.

Two weeks ago, I recovered from my weird stomach virus and started flying again, preparing for my first checkride in the T-6. The "Midphase Check" is designed to test our abilities to safely fly the aircraft in the pattern and prform certain maneuvers in the practice areas. It has a deceiving name because it's not really in the middle of the T-6's only the first of four checkrides we have to go through. Most of the flights leading up to the check kept me fairly confident in my abilities to pass the checkride, although my poor performance during my initial solo flight was still lingering in the back of my mind. For whatever reason, my initial solo had me rattled; it was just one of those days where my hands weren't talking to my brain, and vice versa. Again, it was a plenty safe flight, but not quite as nice as what I'm used to. That's what makes pilot training...pilot training. There are so many variables that can affect your little gust of wind can turn a great landing into a near catastrophe if you let it. However, like I said, most of my flights a couple weeks ago were rather assuring.

During the week, I watched other members of my flight go through the checkride - we had several who failed due to problems with their pubs. Pubs are written documents that govern how we fly...kind of the "rules of the road." Often there are updates that need to be written into the documents. If they are not updated, there's no written proof that shows you are abiding with the new publicaitons. It's a technicality that cannot be overlooked when preparing for a checkride.

To prevent this from happening to me, I sat down with some friends that had the updated pubs, and went page by page through all my documents and ensured they were up to speed. It's a tedious process, but necessary to make sure I didn't fail for something so simple as a pubs problem.

Monday afternoon at about 3pm was my scheduled takeoff time for my checkride. All flights in the morning were cancelled for weather, and we weren't exactly sure if we were gonna get clear skies in time. My check IP and I briefed like normal, but he sent me back to my flight room to wait for further word as to whether we were going to launch. The time when we were supposed to walk out to the jet (step time) came and passed, but T-6s were still in a no-go status. For about 10 minutes I thought I was given an extra day to study, but we soon found out there was a clearing line in the clouds forming. T-6s were given a "go" status and the schedulers gave us new takeoff times for all our checkrides (I was one of 5 checkrides in our flight that day). So I went from thinking I had another 24 hours to prepare for my first checkride to having to gathering all my in-flight pubs together and stepping to a new jet in about 10 minutes. Lesson learned: you always have to be prepared to go no matter what external factors exist. All you can control in pilot training is yourself, so make sure you're ready for whatever may come your way....

We took-off and had a pretty normal flight until I finished all my maneuvers in the area. My last maneuver was slow flight where we have our landing gear and flaps extended. I finished the maneuver, brought up the landing gear, but forgot to make a VERY important cockpit call-out that verifies the gear actually was raised. This type of mistake was the same mistake people would hook flights for in earlier missions. This type of mistake was what I knew I could hook for, and would probably be one of the only reasons I could reasonably hook a checkride for. The IP asked me for the gear confirmation, to which I quickly replied "Gear up, flaps up, lights out by 150 knots." It was a costly mistake that I was sure would hook me. I couldn't believe it. All this work and preparation, and I was probably going to hook the ride for a simple sentence I forgot to say. Checkride IPs are not allowed to say what mistakes you made until after the evaluation is complete, so I knew I wouldn't hear whether or not that made any difference in my grade until after I was on the ground. I did my best to put the mistake behind me, but it was a tall order.

The rest of the flight was relatively uneventful....I returned to Vance and landed, got a drink of water, then waited outside my IPs office for the ground evaluation. While sitting there on the couches, I couldn't help but think about that mistake I made. I knew I would fail, have to go onto a progress check (what we call an "88" ride)....not even sure if I could pass that! If I wash out of pilot training, there's very little incentive for the Air Force to keep me especially with the budget cuts we've been going through. All this was floating through my mind as I sat there on the couch for what seemed like an eternity. My IP finally called me into his office, I said a quick prayer, and then I went into the ground eval. In the ground eval, the IP asks general knowledge questions and gives you an Emergency situation which you have to talk your way through. Both parts of the eval went fairly well....I HAD to make up for my mistakes earlier.

Long story short, he NEVER MENTIONED the gear confirmation problem. He talked about the flight, made several comments about some areas I can clean up, but never mentioned what I thought I knew was going to hook me. When he said "Excellent overall!" I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was saved! I passed, and scored one of the two excellents in the flight. Wow....

It was a lesson in how much God really does have in His control...and how little I have in my control. If you ever find yourself in the middle of a checkride thinking you hooked it...keep flying and pushing forward! You never know the final grade until the end.

Tuesday I celebrated my checkride by flying in the morning with an IP who never flew with a student before! Itw as a blast...I think we both enjoyed it. He showed me some new aerobatics like the cuban-8, immelman, lazy 8, and a few others. In the afternoon, I had my first area solo where they let me take an airplane by myself out to an area to practice the aerobatics alone! It was an absolute blast! I did the same thing again Wednesday morning, but never flew again the rest of the week because of weather constraints. Friday was a welcome end to a long and stressful week.

I wish I could blog a little more, but I'm afraid I need to get back into the books before tomorrrow! We're learning all there is to know about instruments and navigation flying...we'll be picking up instrument flying after our "Final Contact" checkride which will likely be the end of this week. Thanks for the prayers....God Bless!

Psalm 1

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