With that said, it feels like I have not been doing anything work related at all, but we have accomplished some actual work in the last month. We just finished a round of simulators covering flight with Night Vision Goggles (NVGs, of course). Aside from looking like a goob:
they are fascinating to fly with. It feels a lot cooler than it looks. Before the sim starts we pick up a "night kit" along with our NVGs (regrettably we are not issued our own pair) that contains a bunch of glow sticks and tape to cover incompatible lights in the cockpit. Yes, military grade glow sticks. I haven't found it necessary yet to use a glow stick but crack one open every time because I can and usually pocket one or two also just because I can (gotta take what you can get in this sequester environment).
The most recent sims have mostly been opportunities for the instructors to play pilot while we sit in the copilot's seat and raise and lower the gear and flaps (press a couple of buttons). They have years experience flying the 130 and it shows. Sometimes they get so drawn into the sim they forget they're supposed to be teaching and we end up watching aimlessly and trying awkwardly to somehow contribute. It's like "helping" your dad fix the car when your 5 years old.
Dad: "hand me that screwdriver."
Dad: "that's a hammer."
But actually I'm getting really good at pressing the buttons and, as night simulators have proven, can usually find those buttons in the dark (with the assistance of a glow stick).
Night sims are over now, sadly, and we've moved on to flying formation in the weather, i.e. you can't see the other planes you are flying with. We do this by utilizing a piece of equipment called SKE that more or less uses radar to track the other planes in your formation. SKE is short for Incredibly Convoluted Process and is technologically fascinating but is more tedious and less fun in real life.
The main topic of conversation around work lately has been whether or not any of us will have C-130 flying jobs in the near future. The Legacy C-130 Active Duty units are all being phased out and, with them, so are many of the Legacy C-130 pilots. Obviously this has an impact on the training classes. Many of the guys in our class received emails towards the beginning of our time here saying that they might be pulled from the middle or end of training and reassigned to a different job. One of our fellows was supposed to be stationed at Pope AFB in North Carolina but he got a call last week saying he won't be going there any longer. They didn't tell him where he would be going.
Another fellow we know completely finished C-130 training then received a dream sheet (a wish list of potential jobs) from his commander, which means he definitely will not be flying the C-130. And that was AFTER he had already become a brand new, fully qualified C-130 pilot. There have been other stories of guys being pulled from the middle of a simulator into their commander's office and told they aren't going to be happy with what is about to be said. It feels somewhat like the Spanish Inquisition of C-130H pilots. We are all afraid someone's going to come banging on our door in the middle of the night and drag us out into the public square and force us to fly RPAs (remotely piloted aircraft). RPAs are the bane of every pilot and pilotdom.
Telling a qualified pilot he's going to be "flying" an RPA is like clipping a pilot's wings. It's like turning a stallion into a gelding, It's taking away a cowboy's horse, gun and hat, replacing them with a laptop, a tie and a nice pair of slacks and telling him, "Good news! We've implanted microchips in all our cows' brains. Now you can herd them with this laptop from the inside of this windowless cubicle. Don't worry, you can still wear your boots. Just make sure to take off the spurs."
On a fun note, one of my friends, Brandon, is a firefighter and let a couple of us play on the firetruck:
|Deploying the ladder anchors. Who doesn't love a firetruck?|
|From atop the 100' ladder.|
|Room for three in the bucket plus a cooler. Would've stayed up there longer but I didn't have any sunscreen.|
|360* of ROTATION!!|