By Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
The first phase of training in the T-1A Jayhawk is called “transition” for a reason.
Students move from a single-engine turboprop aircraft powerful enough to climb at 3,100 feet per minute and nimble enough to perform loops and rolls, to a much more complicated, heavier, faster twin-engine jet.
The members of Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 13-13 who were assigned to the tanker-airlift track have found that transition challenging.
“Initially, it was pretty overwhelming,” said 2nd Lt. Jonathan Payne. “But now it’s not so bad. There’s a lot more to know, a lot more airplane to fly, but that’s what the transition phase is for.”
“It’s been going a lot faster than I would have thought,” said 2nd Lt. Ryan Schieber.
“I’d say it was probably a little more intimidating,” said 2nd Lt. Eli Weyen. “Probably the second flight in I got comfortable with it. It was just kind of overwhelming at first. Twice the number of gauges looking at you and it’s a little harder to control. It doesn’t have quite the reaction that the T-6 had.”
The T-1 is a heavier aircraft, utilizing a control yoke instead of a joystick, has two throttles instead of one and is flown by a crew, rather than a lone pilot. And there are other differences, as well.
“There’s a bathroom on board,” Payne said.
“There’s a good air conditioning system, too,” Schieber said. “No parachute, no ejection seat.”
“You can bring luggage,” Weyen said.
Schieber was facing his transition check ride the next day, the first big test for T-1 students. Preparing for that meant memorizing a lot of numbers.
“It’s a lot of knowledge,” said Schieber, a native of Philadelphia. “It’s a lot of small numbers that are associated with anything from fuel system hydraulics, oil system, anything about the airplane. The general knowledge portion of the evaluation is fairly heavy on systems knowledge.”
“The systems are a little more complicated too, with two engines,” Weyen said. “That means there’s two pumps for every one pump you had in the T-6.”
Moving into the T-1 meant a return to formal release, meaning students are required to be on base for 12 hours a day, and can’t leave until they are released by a superior officer. Only recently have the students of 13-13 been allowed to go elsewhere on base to get lunch, like the bowling center, then to bring it back to the flight room to eat. In addition, they are now allowed to go to the base Fitness Center and work out before returning to the flight room. They will be on formal release until every class member passes their transition check ride.
The best thing about flying the T-1, said Weyen, who grew up in Adair, is “being in the jet itself rather than being on the ground, and getting jolted with questions.”
The students still are subject to being peppered with “shotgun” emergency-procedure and general- knowledge questions, but these sessions are briefer now than during the first 15 days on the flight line.
“Now we have our baby class, which is 13-14, in with us and they are going through their 15 days, which we’ve already been through,” said Payne, a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala.
T-1 students have been able to shed the G-suit, helmet and oxygen mask that are required equipment to fly the T-6. They also can fly farther than in the T-6, in which daily training missions are limited to pattern work around Vance or trips to T-6 Military Operations Areas, designated spaces for T-6 instructional sorties.
“We fly to Amarillo regularly,” Weyen said. “That kind of breaks up the monotony of being confined to a little square box doing loops and rolls.”
T-1 pilots do spend time in the MOA, but they also get to do out-and-backs, flying to another city, having lunch, then returning to Vance. An instructor pilot always flies in the co-pilot seat, with two students taking turns flying as pilot. The non-flying student rides in the jump seat.
Learning to fly as part of a crew has come fairly easily, Weyen said, though there is a tendency to forget a T-1 pilot doesn’t have to turn all the knobs or make all the radio calls.
“I think it was natural because all the stuff you know you need to get done, and you can’t do it because you’re flying and you can just pass on to the co-pilot,” he said.
“I find myself reaching for knobs from time to time,” Schieber said. “Whenever things get really busy, I try to plug in my own course knob. You get reminded pretty quickly.”
Weyen credits the students’ T-6 experience with easing the transition to the T-1.
“I think the T-6 prepared you really well for what we’re doing now,” he said. “It’s still fast-paced and there’s more to do, more information to take in, but having a T-6 background through Vance, it makes all that easier.”
Longer flights, Payne said, require more planning.
“Now you’ve got to come in and check the weather here, check the weather there,” he said. “There’s a whole list of stuff you’ve got to run down.”
In the T-1, training flights are longer, and so are the briefings preceding them. A T-6 training sortie takes roughly three hours from briefing before the flight to debriefing afterward.
With the T-1, Weyen said, “it’s closer to seven hours.”
“It makes the day go by fast,” Payne said.
After transition, the T-1 students in Class 13-13 will move into the navigation phase of their training.
“We’ll do more out-and-backs, get involved with more real-world controllers and centers,” Weyen said, “like to Omaha and back, with a drop in at Forbes (Field, in Topeka, Kan.)”
“We don’t get to go really fast or pull a lot of Gs, but we do get to go get lunch somewhere cool,” said 1st Lt. Michelle Bosch, one of Class 13-13’s instructor pilots.
Low-level flights also are part of the navigation block. The final phase is Mission Familiarization, in which students fly formation, air-refueling and air-drop sorties.
“It helps determine if you’re going to be an air-drop C-17 pilot or tanker pilot,” Weyen said. “You get a mix of the two to get a feel for how to do each one.”
The full T-1 program spans 120 days and includes more than 142 hours of academics, 21 simulator rides and 42 flights. All told, that totals 284 hours of training.