Monday, February 20, 2006

Off we go, into the wild blue yonder...

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***Warning: this post is all pilot training and no knitting***

The primary reason for my current trip to MS is that last Thursday was Mark's track select day. The part of pilot training he's been doing up to this point has been generic; every AF pilot, including helicopters, goes through this training. At track select they find out what track they're going to go down (fighter/bomber, tanker/transport, turboprop, or helicopter) and then they begin more specific training. Only slightly more specific, though, as fighters and bombers are pretty different planes and there are something like 47 different tanker and transport planes. To determine who goes where, everybody in the class makes up a dream sheet and the Air Force determines how many slots for each type of training the class will get based on AF need for each type of pilot. The powers that be (possibly a computer) then go down the list of class rank (based on academic and flying scores and instructor and peer scores) and pass out the slots available on a first-come-first-served sort of system. The assignments are then passed out in a ceremony that we attended on Thursday.

Before the official event I got to ride with Mark in one of the simulators. It moved and everything, so it was pretty cool. He showed me all his bad moves, and let me try some flying too. I now agree with him that instrument landings do indeed suck. He said my visual landing was pretty good. Excellent, if we pretend it was icy to explain the twisting and turning around the runway. At one point he did get distracted explaining all the gadgets in the plane and let it get too high so the wings fell off or something and we crashed. Not exactly instilling confidence... I also got to walk out on the flightline and see the planes he's been training in.

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Unlike graduation the track select ceremony is somewhat informal; it is kicked off with an hour or so of drinking

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Mark's class has the dubious distinction of being the only class that has spent every Friday since they arrived in the officer's club for hours on end, so the club manager gave them a free round of their class shot (another dubious distinction) Jaeger and Redbull (eeeeeeeew). They then moved to some special room to take a shot of some sort of whisky with the wing commander. Finally, everyone grabbed another beer from one of the kegs and moved into the auditorium.

The guys all stood off to one side waiting until it was their turn.

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A slide had been prepared for each, and the instructors roasted them as introduction.

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Mention was made of Mark "making an Excel spreadsheet to choose an Excel spreadsheet," having ear problems preventing flying on a regular basis (DNIF = duties not including flying), and geeking out even while working out (using a metronome to make sure he was lifting at the right speed). Then he would yell clear and spin the propeller and photos of the possible next training planes would flash across the screen and end with the one he would be in next. The plane is the top of the post is the one that settled on Mark's screen, and is a T-1 tanker/transport trainer. This was not what he had hoped for, but was what he had expected, so it wasn't too disappointing. We had a deal, though; we would follow his dreams and I would just hope to be able to work wherever we ended up if he got fighters. Now that he didn't, it's his turn to follow my dreams and let me have an actual career. As a result, he's trying to move to the Guard (you get to choose where you live and stay there) and be an engineer in the real world. This is technically not allowed while you are in a formal training program, but basically everything in the AF is waiverable. If that doesn't work, he'll leave pilot training and just finish his commitment as an engineer and we will say goodbye to the military.


At 6:49 PM, Blogger Jeanne said...

I'm so glad you posted. I've been thinking about you guys since you left--and I even had a dream about Mark's placement. Weird.

At 6:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, you're leaving the AF all together?


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