Around the Pattern

Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

Category: Military Flying (Page 2 of 4)

Spin Training I – the Cessna T-37

A recent AOPA ePilot newsletter included a segment about an incident where a female flight instructor and her student were killed accomplishing spin training. Preliminary indications are that the larger male student may have frozen at the controls during a spin recovery. Additionally,  the August 2009 Instructor Report (AOPA member sign-in required) from Flight Training Magazine discusses the psychology of spin training. Both of these articles took me back to my T-37 instructor days and our spin training sessions.

My second assignment as a USAF pilot (back in the mid 1970s) was as a T-37 instructor at Webb AFB, TX.  At that time all students attending USAF  Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) started with an orientation in the Cessna T-41 (Cessna 172 variant), then progressed to the T-37, side-by-side jet trainer and finished up with the tandem-seat, supersonic Northrop T-38. The T-37 was a fun plane to fly. It wasn’t a super-fast airplane, but in my opinion that made it much more fun to fly. Aerobatics took fewer g’s and less altitude to complete than the T-38. Then there were the spins. The training syllabus in the T-37 included spin entry and recovery while the T-38 training only included various types of stalls.

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DNIF

The military seems to have an acronym for everything. If you went to the doctor, better known to military pilots as the flight surgeon, and the doctor said that you were not  in a physical condition suitable for flying you were then placed on DNIF status or Duty Not Including Flying. In the military if you can walk you can work so just because you have a cold or stuffy sinuses it doesn’t mean that you can go home and miss all the fun until you are fit to fly again. I can’t remember any time during my military career when I didn’t have at least one additional duty to perform in addition to my primary job as an aircraft commander, instructor or examiner.  I worked in the safety office, the operations center and standardization along with several other un-titled jobs.  At one point a squadron commander wanted me to get a crew together to go out and paint rocks.  The point is that there are always other things to do when you can’t fly.

In the civilian world instead of additional duties you have life.

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Adventures on the Air Refueling Track

The last two posts covered all the procedural steps necessary to accomplish an air refueling mission or qualification.  Completing an AR mission is an exercise in flying formation with another aircraft, specifically in close trail formation. Lockheed C-5 pilot maintaining the air refueling contact position. Just as in any other formation flying, maintaining position involves recognizing relative movement between the airplanes and managing the momentum of aircraft movement. Obviously, the bigger the airplane, the more momentum is involved. I was also an instructor in the USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) program, teaching in the Cessna T-37, a small, 2-seat jet. Formation training was part of the flight syllabus and was usually the first time that the student had the opportunity to get close to another aircraft in flight. The skill sets required to fly formation in the T-37 and to air refuel in the C-5 are very similar, though with the C-5 you have to be more patient with power changes. The C-5’s flight controls are quick for an aircraft of it’s size and the engines are powerful enough that power changes, once in position,  rarely require more movement than 1/2 to 3/4 throttle knob width. Pilots new to air refueling or to formation flying in general have a tendency to make corrections that last too long. When in close proximity to another aircraft heading changes of one or two degrees are all that are needed to see movement. You have to make a concerted effort to barely change bank angle and then level the wings again to make a lateral position correction. Just a little rotational pressure on the yolk is used rather than actually rotating it to see a bank angle change. Power changes need time to take effect. If you get impatient and make an additional power correction before the first one has time to take effect, you end up with at least twice the power change that you need. Soon you find yourself fighting your own corrections.

I spent most of my last four years in the Air Force teaching or evaluating pilots while air refueling.  Most of the missions were fairly routine, but every once in a while we’d have an interesting time trying to complete a training mission.

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