Friday, June 27, 2008

Thanks to reader Kath...

For leading me to this BLOG, called Daniel's Big Trip, it's the diary and thoughts of former AH-64 pilot who lost his arm in a crash in Afghanistan, who's now on a trip across the USA.

He has a post up about "the nickle ride". That is the first ride anyone who goes through flight training receives. It's a nickle ride because it isn't graded and it only costs you a nickle like the mechanical horse outside the H.E.B..

The first flight you take in flight school is commonly known as the “Nickel Flight”. This is because it is ungraded, reminiscent of the little nickel rides in front of a grocery store, and a way for underpaid instructor pilots to make a little money on the side. That first day we met our instructor pilots, mostly a crusty bunch of ex-Vietnam guys who have more time preflighting than I had years on earth. My guy however was a mid thirties former Blackhawk pilot named Jim (we used his last name, but I’m leaving that out.) Jim was a laid back guy with a good healthy perverted sense of humor, and I knew we’d get along just fine. Also along was my “stick buddy” who is the person you learn to fly with. The helicopter we learned on was the TH-67 Bell Jet ranger, painted in bright orange colors to let all who gaze upon you know that you are a danger in the skies, and to avoid you at all costs.

The day starts with some classroom time, and Jim takes a bit to ask us some questions about the helicopter and its’ emergency procedures. We’d spent the last two weeks learning all there was to know about the working of this bird and I knew there was nothing I could be caught off guard about. The one thing they didn’t teach me that I quickly mastered was “the blank stare” which I gave a lot those first few days. Apparently there was a lot I didn’t know or remember… After a while Jim got tired of asking Amy and I random questions about such complicated things as “how does the helicopter fly” only to be greeted with said blank stare, so we headed out to the flight line. The helicopters are parked all over the airfield in nice neat lines, and the most junior pilots get the ones farthest away, so we got the keys and logs and headed to our steed.

For the rest click HERE.

My experience was the same but different. In 1987 when I went through, ALL of the instructors were Vietnam Vets. I was lucky enough to get a guy named Leyland. His personality can be best illustrated by his favorite expression, "What are you trying to do, kill me?" and his technique for impressing the need for a rapid cross check of the instruments by banging me on the flight helmet with a pointer and then motioning to the instrument panel and saying, "attitude, airspeed" over and over again.

There wasn't a day that went by, until I took my Primary phase check ride (over 50 hours of flight training at that point), that I wasn't worried that by the end of the day I would be on the bus headed to FT Benning to become an 11B (infantryman). As I was what was called in those days high school to flight school (even though I had two years of college they still called us that...I guess community college to flight school just didn't have the same ring to it), I didn't already posses a skill (like the prior service Warrant Officer Candidates) so if I flunked out I was at the mercy of Uncle Sugar. As if I needed more motivation.

Somehow I made it through...even though it was uphill both ways to class, and we had to the snow Alabama ...because it was harder when I went through.

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