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This page is organized with most recent events first, going back to the beginning of pilot training in January 2002.
On a personal note, I'd like to thank Julie Boatman from AOPA Pilot magazine for coming to our graduation. She's an acquaintance of mine from when I worked in Colorado, and in September 2002 we arranged for her to come down to write a story on Laughlin's SUPT program which appeared in the June 2003 issue (p. 73) of AOPA Pilot magazine. (AOPA has a membership of about 400,000 - more than half the certified pilots in the US.) Julie also came back to attend our graduation.
View the AOPA article.
T-1 Phase (July 24, 2002 - February 14, 2003)
Graduation...We made it! On February 14, twenty-two students entered the ranks of Air Force pilots. Graduation events started with a retreat ceremony Thursday night followed by a reception at the O Club. Here we gave out gifts to the top sim instructors, academic instructors, flight line instructors, and the top students received awards for both the T-1 side (Top Lobo) and T-38 side (top Red Bull). The T-1 and T-38 students each presented their squadrons with gifts. The following day was a continental breakfast followed by the graduation ceremony, out to the flightline where friend and family pinned on each student's wings, and that night was the banquet. Students receiving awards were as follows:
Jason Barton - Distinguished Graduate, Top Lobo, Flying Training Award (T-1), AETC Commander's Trophy (T-1)
Greg Keller - Distinguished Graduate, Flying Training Award (T-38), AETC Commander's Trophy (T-38)
Clint Palmer - Distinguished Graduate, Order of Daedalians
Trent Tripple - Outstanding Citizen, Outstanding Officer Award
AJ Serafin - Outstanding Second Lieutenant
Matt Hepp - Top Red Bull
Nick Hamilton - Academic Excellence Award (T-38) (100% average on academic tests)
Greg McCann - Academic Excellence Award (T-1), (99.1 % average on academic tests)
Also, I want to thank my unit in Michigan, the 63d ARS, 927th ARW, for sending Lt Col Mike Cole down to attend my graduation and present me with a unit scarf and AMC patches. Just before the retreat ceremony on Thursday, I had a "red carpet" sim with my parents, Lt Col Cole, and Julie. I'm not sure who's landing was better, Lt Col Cole's or Julie's, but I think they were both better than mine!
Also, Monday February 10 will be a day I will remember for a long time. As it turned out, there were four of us who still needed to take our Mission Fam checkrides. We were supposed to check the Friday before, but the weather was awful and our checkrides were bumped to Monday. After yet another weekend of studying and planning, I took my checkride with Angie Hauck in the other plane (a low level formation air drop mission). I ended up with a zero downgrade excellent on the ride - a fitting end to a rough year at Laughlin. Angie got a three downgrade excellent...a very good ride! That night I went to the Toyota dealer to pick up yet another new vehicle, where I traded in the bike and the 2WD Tacoma for a 4WD. It is a long story as to why I had four vehicles this year, but now I'm very happy with the new truck.
Drop Night. Assignment "drop" is where all the active duty people (18 out of 22 students in our class) find out what aircraft and, for the T-1 folks, what base they're going to be assigned to following UPT. Drop is an informal evening, and usually these are big events that attract what seems like everyone on base. We went through 15 kegs of beer! The whole wing staff is present, as well as family, friends and many other students. Every drop has a theme. Ours was that we were prisoners of a psychiatric institution, and our "sentences" were commuted to certain aircraft. Each student was called up on stage, and their "affliction" was shown. A few funny words were said, and then they flushed a toilet (still not sure how this related to our theme) and their aircraft was shown on the screen. The T-1 folks received the master list of assignments going to all four UPT bases a few weeks prior, however, the T-38 folks do not find out what aircraft are in their drop. The T-1 people had to rank each assignment on their list in preference order. I'd guess that about half the class got something near the top of their list. The picture quality is so-so. You can also view the drop final results, a picture of the whole class, a picture of the T-38 guys, the drop Powerpoint presentation (big file), and the script (minus the T-38 folks). January 31, 2003.
Natural Bridge Caverns and Mexico. It is always nice to get a checkride out of the way, especially the week before a three-day weekend (Martin Luther King holiday on Monday). I did my Navigation checkride on Monday, wrapping up a long block of training that started in October after Transition check. They say the Nav checkride is the biggest checkride in pilot training. It was a LONG day. I did two formation rides this week and now only have about eight more rides in formation, air refueling, and air drop. Friday night I drove to San Antonio and Saturday morning Ralen and I visited the Natural Bridge Caverns (website), about 20 miles north of San Antonio. We took a tour down deep into the underground caves. I drove back to Del Rio and later that night a group of us went to Mexico and had dinner at Johnny's, where the margaritas are ¡muy fuerte! January 18, 2003.
Copilot ride to Centennial (Denver). Aaron Lane and I were slated for a copilot "out and back" ride on Tuesday, November 26. Like all of our flights these days, we pick where we want to go, so long as it meets the requirements. The requirements for copilot rides are few...basically, it is to give us a taste of what our future jobs will be like once we get to our units (nobody is a flight commander right out of UPT in a crew airplane). There is no drop in base, so we can go pretty far with our two hour target lesson time (per person). It was to be an afternoon flight, with an evening return since I needed night time. Centennial in Denver was on the small list of airports we have "letters of agreement" with, and the weather looked good, so we departed at 3:00 p.m. with Aaron in the copilot seat for the 700 mile flight. I have been to Centennial many times before in the PC-12 (it is only about 25 miles from Jeffco...see this chart extract). While there we met up with Jed (he hired me at Pilatus and now sells planes at Centennial). We had dinner at the airport and then he took us across the street to see a new PC-12, detailed for delivery. In many ways it was a bittersweet trip for me, seeing and smelling the new PC-12. But, I found some consolation on the return trip, which I flew as copilot, cruising up at FL370 (37,000 feet) and 420 knots (about 150 knots faster than a PC-12). I wish I could have spent more time in Denver and met up with some Pilatus friends. Definitely one of my more memorable flights in pilot training. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
McDonald Observatory and Fort Davis. For some time now I've been wanting to get out to the McDonald Observatory (website) near Fort Davis, TX. Saturday morning I loaded up my truck and picked up my friend John (who's in class 03-11, about five months behind me), and we met up with Ralen and his girlfriend Lindsey for the five hour drive into the mountains of west Texas. (Ralen, John, and I are all future part time KC-135 drivers...Ralen for the Hawaii Guard, John for the Kansas Guard, and me in Michigan. Lindsey is a pilot as well, from Hawaii, and living in San Antonio working on her multiengine rating while Ralen is training here at Laughlin.) Along the way we stopped at the Pecos High Bridge (web info), and alongside the road for several pictures. We arrived in Fort Davis just before sunset, then drove the additional 15 miles up to the observatory for an evening "star party." The observatory sits at about 6700 feet elevation, one of the highest points in Texas. Also, for obvious reasons there are no streetlights for miles around, and no lights in the parking lot of the observatory. It is DARK there. The following morning we ate breakfast at the drugstore, went back to the observatory and went on a guided tour of the various telescopes. It was really a fantastic weekend. I highly recommend this trip if you're coming to Laughlin. (Stay at the Hotel Limpia!) November 23-24, 2002.
T-6A Texan II. Laughlin is starting to receive the new T-6, which is slowly going to replace the T-37 over the next few years as a primary trainer. We had a really nice ceremony here on Friday. Several Raytheon representatives came in their company aircraft (a 1900 and a Starship - they parked near some of our T-1s which are also Raytheon products). The ceremony consisted of a four ship of T-6s arriving and taxiing in. Then there was a low level demonstration of the T-6, and some formation flying of the new T-6 next to an old T-6. November 15, 2002.
The Big Texan. Remember the John Candy movie The Great Outdoors? Last Tuesday I did an out and back flight to Amarillo, and no kidding, if you can eat this 72 oz. slab of meat with all the fixings and side dishes, you get it for free. Otherwise it is $72. Apparently you have to do it in an hour, and you even get to sit at this table. Amarillo is also home to the manufacturing facility for the V22 Tiltrotor. November 12, 2002.
Cross country weekend. November 1-4, 2002.
Birdstrike. My IP was flying a single engine landing demo with me in the left seat when on short final we spotted some birds on the runway. He decided to go around but it was too late, we took a bird on the wing. We followed standard procedure, which for us entailed getting a chase ship to inspect for damage, and climbing to about 11,000 for a controllability check. Hitting a bird on landing usually does not cause much damage (unless it goes in an engine) because you're only going around 120 knots, whereas hitting a bird on a low level flight at 250 knots generally causes much more damage. We ended up spending the night in Laredo waiting for a maintenance team to come look at the plane. Everything was OK, so we made a training mission out of the trip back to Laughlin the next day. August 29, 2002.
T-1 group and individual photos. August 2002.
Pubs issue. Some light reading for the next six months. August 2002.
Egress training. August 2002.
T-37 Phase (March-July 2002).
Various pictures from Track Select (just a few pictures). "Red Carpet Day" is a chance for family and friends to visit and learn about our training here and see us graduate from T-37s. Tiffany came to see my graduation. She arrived on Thursday night, and we met some people at Applebee's in town for dinner. Friday morning was a chance to meet our flight commander and IPs, and to see a sample stand-up. The stand up is more comical than realistic. Then I took her to a T-37 simulator. When we were done, the group tour had already started so I took her on a tour of our own (I took some pictures of her on the flightline). We later went to the Dadaelian Room in the Officer Club where some people had lunch, followed by my slideshow (which turned out pretty good), then by a short speech from the squadron commander. Later that night we had a party at the golf course, which we attended for a little while. Saturday we went on a motorcycle ride to the International Dam (see pictures below) and later met with Brian, Tiff's family friend who just arrived at Laughlin and will be in Class 03-13. We met some other people for dinner and a movie. Sunday consisted of a brief trip to Mexico. Tiff left Monday July 22 and then I went to the lake with some people from class. Schwadi (Andy) and I went to the International Dam on the way back (which is up by the LAFB marina), but these pictures really do not do it justice. The actual Track Select ceremony was on Tuesday. Before the ceremony, some people got awards for things they did prior to UPT while on casual status. Some friends and family were still present for the ceremony, which is where we actually found out what aircraft we'll all fly for the remainder of our training (and therefore what type of aircraft we're going to fly in our Air Force career). The options are fighter/bomber (T-38 track), tanker/airlift (T-1 track), helicopter track (UH-1 at Fort Rucker with the Army), or T-44 track (for C-130 assignments, train with the Navy at Corpus Christi). For the most part, people got what they wanted.
In the news. Laughlin's SUPT program was featured in the Lifestyles section of the San Antonio Express-News July 14. The IP being thrown in the pool is from my flight. That's us throwing him in. I'm the one mostly blocked in the photo.
Longhorn flight pictures. I arranged use of the runway so that we could get a group picture. Here is my flight, the Longhorns (which is half of our class...the other flight is the Irish). There's also some individual shots of me, Tripple, Connel, Neylon, and Palmer. Thanks to Jenn, Brandon's girlfriend, for climbing on top of my car for the pictures.
Irish flight pictures. The folks in our sister flight asked me to take their picture too, so here are some pictures of the happy Irish.
Chip gets married. Chip had a small wedding on Saturday June 22. There are some pictures of the bachelor party, the ceremony, and the reception at AJ & Brandon's house.
Various pictures from our flightroom. The flightroom in located in the OTC building and is where we spend our time when not flying, in a simulator, or in an academic class. In the morning we have our daily formal briefing which usually also consists of a emergency procedure drill where a person is selected at random to stand up and talk his or her way through a sample emergency. The brief usually lasts a half hour, then those people who are scheduled to fly "first go" brief for their flights with their respective IP. We "step" for flights 30-45 minutes prior to scheduled takeoff time, then go to the front desk and sign out our jets and then to the parachute room to preflight our equipment before heading out to preflight the jet and fly. We're generally in the flight room 10-12 hours a day, so it is like a second home. We even have a snack bar, a popcorn machine, and a kegerator which is generally off limits during the week. (Recently however, a policy change removed all this stuff from the flight rooms). Friday evenings are our chance to unwind - the last people flying on Fridays generally have a relaxed debrief. In mid-July we will finish Phase II (T-37 training) and no longer be in this flight room - we'll all go on to fly our respective aircraft for Phase III.
Me and a Tweet. I think everyone going through pilot training needs a picture of them next to a venerable T-37. Soon to be replaced by a new primary trainer - the Raytheon T-6A Texan II - a single-engine turboprop which started out life as the Pilatus PC-9 (the company I used to work for when I flew the PC-12). This picture was taken June 8, 2002, at College Station (home to Texas A&M). My cross country IP was a former helicopter pilot, and we had a good time beating up traffic patterns at civilian and military fields throughout Texas for a few days before returning to lovely Laughlin.
Memorial Day Sunday - Lake & Mexico. On Sunday, Mark called me wanting to know if I'd be interested in going to Lake Amistad. We met at Brandon and Jen's house and I took my motorcycle (which I keep in their garage) and we carpooled up to the lake. We rented a pontoon boat and a ski boat from the Laughlin AFB marina and spent about four hours swimming, skiing, and generally goofing around. It was me, Denny and Mandy, Aaron and Emily, Mark and Josie, and Brandon and Jen. We got back around around 6:15 p.m. and around 7:30 p.m. we met at again at Brandon and Jen's to go to Mexico for dinner. One thing I found interesting is that people driving across the bridge to and from Mexico offer rides in their trucks. So, the nine of us piled into the bed of an old Ford Ranger for the trip over. After dinner the group of guys went outside to smoke some cigars, and our table of attractive women was quickly occupied by some guys sitting next to them (oops!). While we stood outside, carloads of people would go shouting "America!" Apparently a Mexican soccer team called "America" had just won a game.
Airshow. We had a big airshow here Sunday May 12. It was a military airshow, as compared to Oshkosh Airventure, for example, which has both military and civilian aircraft. About 30,000 people attended, and the performers included the Wings of Blue jump team (of which our own Matt Hepp was a member while he was there, totaling over 1000 jumps), a P-40 acro demo, A-10, P-51/Zero dogfight, A-10/P-51 formation, T-28, F-18, F-117, T-33/Mig-15 dogfight, and of course the Air Force Thunderbirds. Myself and several others were tasked to work the show. Perhaps one of the neatest things for us students were the days before and after the show, because we got to watch the various aircraft arrive and depart (including the C-5, which is the largest air transport aircraft in the Air Force and the third largest aircraft in the world. Watching it land and getting a tour from the pilot before the show started were my personal highlights of the show).
Various flightline pictures. I followed some people out as they were getting ready to fly back in March and snapped these pictures.
The parachute room. Before we step out to fly, we preflight our parachute and helmet in this room.
Solo pictures. It is tradition that when a person solos, his classmates grab him on his way back from the jet and throw him into a tank of somewhat nasty water. If he can make it back to the flightroom without being caught, his classmates owe him a case of beer. I didn't get pictures of everyone because I was often busy doing other things as my classmates soloed, but here's some pictures of some solo students and their trip to the tank back in March and April.
Sycamore Creek and Bull Riding. On April 27, Schwadi and I rode in his new Toyota truck (which took the place of his Saturn which was totaled in the hailstorm) to a dry riverbed near here called Sycamore Creek and spend about a hour wandering around in the 100 degree heat looking for interesting rocks. Later that night we went to a bullriding event, which just about everyone from our class attended.
Andy Schwaderer heads out for a flight. Just some random pictures I took of my pal Schwadi on the flightline preparing to fly. These pictures were taken back in March, during our early contact phase.
Pictures of me. These three pictures were taken just after a flight on April 12. That's one of my IPs I'm walking with. Notice the letters on the tails of the airplanes. Airplanes with XL denote they are from Laughlin. In one of the pictures you will see aircraft with CB (Columbus AFB) and EN (Sheppard AFB). This is because T-37s were flown in from these bases after the hailstorm the preceding weekend (April 7), since many of our planes were damaged.
Hailstorm. April 7 started as a beautiful day. In fact, we decided to get together as a class and paint the "Pogo Tank" - the tank you're dunked in when you solo - with our distinctive class colors. While we were there the sky got really dark, and a guy from the control tower adjacent to the area we were at hollered down that we should leave, because there was 3/4 inch hail on the way. It was a major hailstorm. Everyone's car that was outside got hit. We stood under the awning just watching - what else could we do? Afterwards, people just stood in the parking lot, picking up pieces of what used to be their vehicles.
RSU pictures. Part of being on the flight line is doing tours in the RSU, which is like a mini control tower out by the runway which controls T-37 traffic. It is staffed by IPs (Instructor Pilots) and students. The instructors control traffic while the students look at takeoff and landing traffic for abnormal indications (leaking fuel, landing gear down, etc) with binoculars. Students also record all traffic on a sheet of paper. While I was out at the RSU, I took a break and snapped some pictures of aircraft.
Academics (February and beginning of March 2002)
Debut of our class patch. At any given time there are twelve classes here, with each class having about 30 people in it. Every three weeks a new class starts, and a class graduates. Part of what distinguishes you as a member of a certain class is your class patch. They are usually funny, sometimes off color, and sometimes downright stupid. Our patch is a spoof off this beer poster. Here it is...the moment you've all been waiting for....drum roll please.....
I arrived at Laughlin Air Force Base Monday January 28. The first six weeks of SUPT were academics. After first week of inprocessing and "administrivia," we had a class get-together at our class leader's house (he's a captain and a former B-1 navigator). The first few weeks were Aerospace Physiology, where we learned such things as the effect of high-G flight, hypoxia, hyperventilation, signaling, egress and ejection procedures, and basic land survival. As part of learning to use the parachute, we used a suspension training device called SLT/DLT, and also went parasailing on February 14, 2002. At the parasail site we also had a barbecue and people's families were invited. We also had a few "flights" in the altitude chamber, teaching us the effects of hypoxia. Following physiology, we moved on to T-37 systems for a week. We had an outstanding instructor (former A-10 and F-111 pilot) and scored a class average of 99.5% on the systems test, so on Friday February 22 we had a get together after class at the Officer Club. A popular game for Air Force pilots is Crud, which involves a pool table and a lot of fast moving around - I still don't fully understand it. Then we carpooled to the instructor's house for a traditional "roof stomp." This is a Air Force tradition where you pay tribute to someone by actually getting a bunch of (drunk) people to climb up on their roof and surprise them. Then they let you in and give you food and beer, which is how it worked. Also, because we had a fair amount of free time during academics, I took two weekend trips to San Antonio (it is about 150 miles one-way). On one trip I bought a motorcycle (February 16, 2001). My friend Ralen came, with his friend Haki. (They're both going to fly for the Guard in Hawaii). We had a good time there, spent the night at Brooks AFB in billeting, and they were kind enough to drive my car back to Del Rio the next day so I could drive the bike back.
Assorted SUPT pictures
My dorm room.
Laughlin Air Force Base.
Some Del Rio pictures.