They haven’t killed me yet.

by Berck

But not for lack of trying.

Mostly I’ve been given the easiest students so far, but they’re getting progressively harder. I think I’m going to wind up with full-blown new cadets next week.

I’ve already screwed up. I got completely confused in the traffic pattern by the tower, and ended up turning about 1,000 feet in front of a plane I didn’t see and then thought was going somewhere else, but which my student had told the tower he had in sight, even though he was looking at someone else entirely. My flight commander was in a plane just behind us and saw the whole thing, and we talked about it. He didn’t seem too upset, and helped me understand where I went wrong.

It’s a strange profession. As I strap the airplane to my back (with the canopy open, it feels more like wearing a bulky suit than sitting inside an airplane), I tend to think about the possible outcomes. A smoking hole in the ground. Violating an Air Force regulation, or worse, an FAA regulation and having my privileges suspended and/or revoked. Bending a nose gear, scraping a wing tip or blowing a tire on a landing where I should have taken the controls sooner. Flying unwittingly into a dry microburst on 200ft final that my student can’t react quickly enough to and freezes on the controls, not letting me react. Flying into another Academy aircraft because neither of us noticed our students had varied just slightly from the altitudes and ground tracks we were supposed to be flying.

I think about it all while my student closes the canopy and starts the engine, running through his checklist. I watch to make sure he doesn’t break anything, to make sure he does everything with precision. As he pulls out from the parking space and fights the castering nose wheel by abusing the differential brake I wonder if I can possibly explain a better taxi technique. But all I really manage at first is, “Taxi on the yellow line!” as he seems content to be two feet to the right of it. “Over here you’re likely to strike a wingtip on the nose of another plane, and I’ll have to explain why,” I tell him. “That seems like a crazy job, being responsible for anything I might do wrong,” he says. “You have no idea,” I respond.

Later, when he drifts off taxiway centerline again I tell him, “Do you want to be an Air Force pilot? Air Force pilots taxi on the centerline.” “Yes sir!” he responds.

Later, as we do stalls, I put my feet on the rudder pedals. As the left wing drops, my student feeds in more and more right stick. Eventually he’s holding full right stick and the left wing continues to drop. I figure we’re about 3 seconds away from an incipient spin. I don’t know what these planes are like in a spin, but I hear that they wrap up quickly and take awhile to recover. Today is not a day to find out first hand. Fortunately, the student recovers in time as I start issuing instructions. Trying to sound calm and collected.

“You did something very, very wrong in that stall. Do you have any idea what?” I ask him.

“No,” he says. And that’s good. Because I can tell him what he did wrong, and maybe he won’t do it next time.

I was originally going to have to work today, but our Moron in Chief decided to watch the hurricane from NORAD so it would look like he cared. (?!?) Since he’s afraid of damn near everything, no one can fly in Colorado Springs while he’s here. Which, today, is fine by me. I’m glad to have the day off.

Jonah and I went driving today. We drove up to one of the north areas and I discovered that the astonishing array of satellite dishes that form the north border of one of our practice areas is the Direct TV headquarters. Drove many of the dirt roads that border the area. I like getting a perspective of things from the ground. I drove down North Gate road and found point FOX, then headed south and drove by TANK (a large, brown tank). I have a hard time finding it from the air, and I wondered how hard it would be to climb on top and spray paint it yellow or something.

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