Category Archives: Aviating

Tales From the Cockpit

Undergraduate Pilot Training – The First Checkride

During the initial portion of my USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) known as the “Contact” Phase, each student was paired with a primary instructor pilot (IP). This provided continuity in procedures and techniques, especially important when learning new skills requiring a seamless blend of knowledge and eye-hand coordination. But once a student reached a basic level of proficiency, flying with other instructors paid dividends to the occupants of both seats. Students learned that almost any maneuver could be performed in more than one way, and the IPs effectively provided their own quality control by comparing how students other than their … Continue reading

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Undergraduate Pilot Training – When an Engine Says, “I Quit”

All the students of USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) Class 66-D at Reese AFB, Texas, had private pilot’s licenses obtained with civilian instructors. The airplanes we flew had only one internal combustion engine (just like in your car) and a propeller. In that initial training, instructors had the nasty habit of surprising us with simulated engine failure. Picture yourself flying along concentrating on a maneuver and suddenly this hand from out of nowhere shoves yours off the throttle and pulls it back to idle. Drag is now way more than thrust. If you try to hold altitude, you will slow … Continue reading

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Undergraduate Pilot Training – When an Airplane Says, “I Quit.”

In the three-dimensional world of flight, the word “normal” (conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected) is defined in relation to both procedures (a series of actions conducted in a certain order or manner) and maneuvers (a movement or series of moves requiring skill and care). Procedures other than normal are either abnormal (deviating from what is normal or usual, typically in a way that is undesirable or worrying), or emergency (a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action). For civilian pilots and aircraft, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) labels flight maneuvers other than normal as “aerobatic,” … Continue reading

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Undergraduate Pilot Training – A Post-Solo Hiccup

Following my first solo flight in the T-37, I flew a combination of solo and dual sorties. Initially, solo flights were conducted within the traffic pattern, kind of like keeping the chicks close to home. Once cleared for solo flight to the practice areas, I felt a special kinship with a falcon in training whose jesses have been removed for the first time. No more instructor sitting in the right seat finding fault with everything I did, or stationed in the Runway Supervisory Unit watching my every move with binoculars so he could write derogatory comments about my traffic patterns … Continue reading

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Undergraduate Pilot Training – Initial Solo

Initial: existing or occurring at the beginning. Solo: an unaccompanied flight by a pilot in an aircraft. These dictionary definitions do little to illustrate the significance of the words to a budding aviator. On February 3rd, 1964, I flew a civilian airplane for the first time without an instructor sitting beside me, ready to take control if I got into trouble. This was a “supervised solo” flight in a Cessna 150, confined to the traffic pattern with the instructor on the ground monitoring my performance during a series of repetitive takeoffs and landings known as “touch-and-go’s.” I don’t remember much … Continue reading

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Undergraduate Pilot Training – Time to Re-Tire

Prior to our first flights in the T-37, we had already spent many hours in the classroom. As described in a previous post titled, “Split Schedules,” academics would continue in conjunction with flight training to cover in detail subjects like aviation physiology (including altitude chamber rides), ejection seat and emergency egress training, parachute landing falls, aircraft systems, basic instruments, mission planning, navigation, and aviation weather. Following our “Dollar Rides,” the Contact phase of USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training began in earnest. A description of this phase in the current UPT syllabus follows: “Here you will learn the fundamentals of flight under … Continue reading

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Undergraduate Pilot Training – Dollar Rides and Sick Sacks

To say that USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) shoved me and the other students of Class 66-D headlong into a brand-new world is a gross understatement. One day we were green-bean 2nd Lieutenants on an extended summer vacation. But after signing in to our first duty assignment and entering active duty, the time had come to put aside our civilian ways and learn up close and personal what it meant to be a military officer. Even more unsettling was the reality of what we’d signed up for by wanting to wear the wings of a USAF pilot. At that time, … Continue reading

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Undergraduate Pilot Training – Split Schedules

After the initial academics-only period, we began a split schedule with classroom instruction in the morning and flying training in the afternoon, or vice versa. All military time is expressed in a 24-hour clock, so AM and PM had no place in our vocabulary. To enter a classroom for morning academics at “oh-eight-hundred hours” (8:00 am) was fairly civilized, actually. We’d be out of class in time to grab some lunch before reporting to the flight line about 1300 hours (1:00 pm). To complete a training sortie consumed most of the afternoon with the inevitable question-and-answer session with an instructor, … Continue reading

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Undergraduate Pilot Training – “The Chinese Pilot”

Undergraduate Pilot Training began with intensive academics prior to any flying. None of us had ever flown the T-37, and the era of being handed a flight manual with instructions to “Read this tonight and be ready for a dawn takeoff” were long gone. We spent many hours learning about the airplane and its systems, all of which were far more complicated than anything we’d seen so far. Classroom instruction also covered a myriad of other subjects, including meteorology. We had private pilot’s licenses, so we weren’t novices when it came to understanding weather patterns and how dangerous conditions develop … Continue reading

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Undergraduate Pilot Training – The SSBB Engine

On 16 November, 1964, UPT Class 66-D began the process that in twelve months and twenty-two days would transform a group of mostly 2nd lieutenants into USAF pilots. Few (if any) of us had flown anything other than light aircraft trainers. But the flight line at Reese AFB didn’t have any of these. To even begin training in the T-37 required no small amount of classroom instruction well before the first flight. Of the many differences we faced, one of the most significant was what the military called the “powerplant.” No more piston engines and propellers for us. We were … Continue reading

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