Time Flies When It’s Flying Time

It’s been five flights and almost two weeks since my last post.

Mid-stage fams are definitely tough. Gauges “malfunction” nearly every time the instructor knows I’m checking them, and my highly reliable Pratt and Whitney PT6A-25 turboprop engine “fails” at least 4 times every flight, sometimes less than a thousand feet off the ground. My gentle, stable trainer somehow manages to get into a steady-state spin and an approach-turn stall every single time I fly. But through a miraculous combination of my embryonic skills and the patience of my instructors, the engine relights, the houses in my windscreen stop spinning, and the trees start looking small underneath us again.

All this is part of a great effort to get me ready for my first solo flight in the T-34C. Before they give me the keys, they’ve got to break me down, teach me what I need to know to fly the plane out of any disorienting situation, and then reinforce that knowledge until I can do it automatically and mechanically while spinning toward the dirt at 12,000 feet per minute.

I have only two more flights before my “check ride.” On that flight, an instructor I’ve probably never flown with before will make the final judgement as to whether or not I should be allowed to take the plane out on my own.

I feel like things are finally starting to come together for me. I had a good flight yesterday. I don’t think I had a single one of the “uh… I don’t know”-moments that had plagued some of my previous flights. It’s still not perfect, but I’ve got two more flights to smooth out as many of the bumps as I can. The first one is scheduled to brief at 5:30 tomorrow morning.

The solo itself is a tremendous rite of passage in the aviation community in general, and the fraternity of Naval Aviation in particular. Most of my squadron mates say it gets a lot easier after the solo- even that the instructors start treating the students better. In any case, it should be a huge boost to my modest aviator ego… ;)

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