Me and Abilicious

Me and Abilicious

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Grey Hairs and More Hiking

I don’t often drink coffee so when I do (as I just did) I get incredibly jittery and cannot type fast enough. Unfortunately that means a lot of backspacing because my fingers can’t keep up with the jitter demand. Uncorrected it looks like this: and thishtsei ywhwyehth I diecided to tkekerp tbackaosohfodndniong.

I came to Little Rock with no expectations but lots of excitement. I couldn't nail down why exactly I was excited to get here and, now that I am here, I still can’t express why I love it so much. A great deal of it was the first impression - granted, coming from Columbus, the standard for a “fun” city (considering only what the city has to offer (not including the people)) was pretty low - which went something like, “hey! There’s stuff to do here!” Little Rock offers an abundance of running trails and runners to go with it. On even a marginal weather day it would be unusual to see anything less than a horde of people on the trails running, walking, biking or, occasionally, sleeping (but usually that occurs slightly off the trails beneath an underpass close to sunset or just after dawn).

My parents came to visit and we "hiked" (mostly climbed) Pinnacle Mountain.
Mama didn't bring her shirt.

When I moved here I did not consider myself a “runner.” After hitting the trails a few times, though, and reading the book Born to Run, by Christopher McDougal, I caught the fever. Now, on a weekday I go for 6ish miles a pop and on a Saturday I’ll run 13-15 miles - that’s roughly 10 times as many miles as used to run in one go (as in the mile and a half during the yearly Physical Fitness Test) and approximately 13-15 times more than I ever wanted to run. I’m surprising myself. After reading Born to Run my goal was to simply enjoy running. I think it’s working.

Amidst the funtivities I still manage to fit some C-130 training in. Our class is nearing Phase 1 completion and our schedule has started slowing down. Training here has been immensely more enjoyable than at SUPT. There are no weekly EPQs or humiliating shotgun questions. I am also more motivated to know the aircraft systems and performance on an intimate level since this is the plane I will be flying for the foreseeable future (unless it gets sequestered, too). Unlike SUPT, we are encouraged to work as a crew and not trained to do everything solo. Back in Columbus if I as the pilot made a mistake and the other student sitting co-pilot caught the mistake and tried to fix it we were both chastised. I for making a mistake and the co-pilot for not letting me make the mistake. Here they say a crew save is a good save. It takes away a load of stress and encourages the team environment, which I thrive on.

These are the C-130 simulators we use.

This is what it looks like from the inside

And this is what we pretend we look like

The instructors here are mostly all salty, salty Vietnam veterans who have been flying the C-130 for over 20 years and instructing on the simulators for another 15-20 years - obviously a wealth of experience and knowledge. 

He's probably laughing at a dirty joke
After one simulator profile my flying partner, Ross, and I were corrected by the instructor pilot, instructor engineer and instructor navigator for descending in the weather during part of the mission. The details are not important but I found myself wanting to quibble then it hit me that all of these guys had grey hair. Stress might cause grey hair but you never get old by making fatal mistakes and dying young. When three grey haired, salty Vietnam vets tell you what you did was stupid and dangerous it pays to listen (their opinions on how to best work an iPhone or iPad, though, can usually be disregarded).

One of the few drawbacks to having an experienced instructor is that sometimes they can talk for, like, ever about the C-130 and take up the whole 3 hours slotted for a mission prebrief. You can often gauge how long a prebrief will take by the number of “war stories” told. Want to know about how to deal with an engine fire or throttle control cable failure? There’s a story for that. Have a question on the alternate gear-extension method? There are a few stories for that. Want to know how stupid and useless the Temperature Datum Control System is? Better believe there is a story AND a long soapbox dialogue on that. Want to hear how to solve the debt crisis and save the Air Force $300 million a year on C-130 training? There is a whole story and even a slideshow with videos for that. Oftentimes a student will bring up one of those political rabbit trails on purpose with the full knowledge it will take the next 2 hours to fully discuss because, frankly, my ability to learn ended with my patience about 10 minutes into the brief.

Anything to do with politics is always a winner but every instructor has a hot button they love to talk about: remodeling a yard, classic cars, motorcycles, guns, basketball, grandkids, college football, what a pain his son-in-law’s dog is. If you know you will have the same instructor for more than one simulator mission the goal is to find his hot button the first go. Keep prodding until you find it then never let it go. When he says, “Well, that’s enough about that,” counter with, “what other pieces of your furniture has his dog destroyed?” This saves mileage on the brain cells down the road and will help preserve your patience which, trust me, will NOT last for a whole three hour lecture on how the prop feathers (THOUGHT BUBBLE: “Ok. He’s pausing. Nod your head and say something like, ‘that makes sense.’”). Or you could spend an hour showing them the wonders of their iPhone.