The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

December 15, 2012

Vance JSUPT Class 13-13 just weeks from leaving the T-6A II Texan behind

ENID, Okla. — It has been three short months since the members of Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 13-13 first climbed tentatively into the cockpit of a T-6A Texan II for their initial rides, and two months since they made their first solo flights.

In that time, they have become far more familiar with, and comfortable in, the Texan II.

“Your situational awareness has increased so much that you pick up on things you didn’t before,” 2nd Lt. Eli Weyen said. “It’s amazing to see that transform.”

Now, they find themselves within mere weeks of leaving the T-6 behind.

“The days go by really quick,” Weyen said. “I don’t think you realize what you learned until the next flight, because it just blends into the next day’s schedule. It’s moving really quick, that’s for sure.

“It’s crazy. The information overload we get actually works.”

The members of 13-13 are spread out somewhat along the training timeline, with some still finishing their instrument instruction, and others having moved on to formation and low-level work.

The instrument phase teaches students to fly in all kinds of weather, relying on their aircraft’s gauges and dials rather than on visual cues outside the canopy.

During instrument rides, student pilots fly wearing a sort of visor that keeps them from looking outside the cockpit. That is known as “flying under the hood,” and it presents its own set of challenges, not the least of which is known as “the leans.” That occurs when a pilot’s instruments are saying the aircraft is level, but his inner ear makes him feel like the plane is in a bank.

“The first couple of times you fly with the hood, you might feel that, then you get used to it, but it’s not very fun to fly with,” 2nd Lt. Kayla Bowers said.

Instrument instruction brings with it a great deal of information student pilots must absorb in a short period of time.

“There’s just a lot of rules that you need to know, concerning weather and when you can and can’t fly, where to and all that,” Bowers said.

“Instruments are pretty academic-heavy,” 2nd Lt. Jonathan Payne said.

“It’s a lot of information,” 2nd Lt. Ryan Schieber said. “You’re just trying to sponge up as much as you can, practicing at home as much as you can, chair-flying and studying up.”

Instrument instruction does not involve high G’s, inverted flight and aerobatics, but limits pilots to slight and precise attitude changes.

“You definitely have to know your stuff before you fly an instrument ride,” Schieber said. “If you deviate from altitude, it could mean crashing into another airplane.”

During the instrument and navigation phase of training, student pilots get the opportunity to see and experience some different airfields as they do their cross-country flights. That involves leaving Friday afternoon and flying to places like New Orleans, Nashville, Omaha, Fort Worth and Denver to practice navigation, takeoffs and landings at unfamiliar airports.

“Cross-country was awesome,” Bowers said. “I got to check out Bourbon Street for the first time.”

They flew in to Naval Air Station New Orleans, an FA-18 base.

“Half of your radar pattern was actually flown out over the Gulf, so you are flying into the ocean coming in to the airport,” she said. “It was really, really cool.”

Payne’s cross-country took him to Omaha, then to Denver.

“We flew up through the mountains, near Pike’s Peak,” Payne said.

But the goal is education, not sightseeing.

“It’s applying the instrument techniques you learn here, off-station,” Payne said.

“It’s really a confidence booster for student pilots to know that they can go off-station and handle talking to ATC (air traffic control), looking at approaches on the go rather than chair-flying a lot before you fly someplace,” Bowers said. “It’s more real-world type flying than we get around here. Flying around here we’re used to the area, we do the same things a lot.”

“Probably the No. 1 thing you pick up is communications over the radio, because of the non-standard phrases they throw out there,” Weyen said. “There’s other aircraft out there than T-6s.”

After instruments comes formation flying, which involves two aircraft flying together from takeoff, through various maneuvers, through landing.

“It’s pretty intense,” Payne said. “It’s very exciting, though.”

“It’s a lot of fun, actually,” Weyen said. “It’s up close and personal.”

During formation flights, aircraft fly within 10 feet of one another, pretty close quarters at better than 300 miles per hour.

“It really increases your skill level, because the adjustments that you make with the throttle and the control stick are very, very small,” Weyen said.

Low-level flying follows formation instruction. That involves flying as low as 300-500 feet above ground level over open country. The goal is to identify and fly over designated turn points and to reach the final point on time and on target.

“There’s not a lot out there,” Weyen said. “Just cows.”

The students will get a break of 10 days or so for Christmas and New Year’s, and all are looking forward to a chance to go home and get away from the intensity of pilot training for a while.

“It will be a good mental break,” Payne said.

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