Week 17
October 4 - 8, 2004

Well, my boot camp luck didn't hold and I got up early on Monday and ran around with my classmates. And, it was lots of running this morning. We ran all over JSC. I can't tell you how much fun that was. I didn't have a flight scheduled today, so I worked on yet another test for the T-38. In addition to the handbook exam, we have to take an instrument test. Luckily this one is much shorter. In fact, I was able to track down all the information and finish the test today. I think that is all the tests that I have to do for the T-38 for now, aside the practical flying test that I will have to do at the end of my flying syllabus.

Since I had had my fill of T-38 tests and information for the time being, I spent the rest of my day reading in some of the 800 lbs of workbooks that were delivered to my desk on Shuttle systems. At the end of this month, we will be starting our Shuttle systems training. We will still be flying, to complete the T-38 syllabus, but we will also be attending Shuttle classes. I figured that I might as well start looking some of the information over now. Luckily, I remember a lot from my Shuttle days way back when. I may not remember everything, but at least I already know most of the acronyms, which is a huge start.

Tuesday was supposed to have been a very fun day - we were scheduled to do a familiarization flight on the KC-135 (a. k. a., the vomit comet), the plane that they use to fly the parabolas to produce a little zero-g time. I have always wanted to do this. Unfortunately, there were some mechanical difficulties and the flight had to be cancelled. Hopefully it will get rescheduled soon. But, the day wasn't a total loss, since we were supposed to do the KC flight the first thing in the morning, our entire class skated out of boot camp. And, I had a T-38 flight in the afternoon.

At first, it looked like that the weather wasn't going to cooperate. The instructor pilot and I were planning on going to Corpus Christi and back (this training flight is for more comm and nav practice). However, once we checked the weather we quickly decided that south was not the right way to go. Nor was east a particularly good direction. So, instead of doing one of the canned routes that NASA has, we made up our own. We did a nice big circle around the area - from Ellington to College Station to Lufkin to Beaumont and back to Ellington. On this flight we worked on navigating via "raw data,"or, as most people call it, using TACANs and VORs. The point was to not just use the GPS capability on the Flight Management System (FMS). I actually had to get out a map and look up the airways. . . But, it wasn't quite like flying in the T-34 or a Piper Warrior because the FMS already knows the airways and you can plug them in and it will give you steering information to use while cruising along. Not too shabby.

When we took off we ended up flying to the west just south of downtown Houston at about 15,000 feet. It was a relatively clear day (in spite of all the storms elsewhere) and the view was quite spectacular. You really can see a lot out of the canopy on a T-38 if you ever get a chance to take a minute and look outside. Usually I am so busy that I rarely get to look around. The rest of the flight was uneventful and I can see that I am making progress in working all the navigation equipment and keeping up with the pilot. When we got to Beaumont we dropped in for a couple low approaches, then we headed back to Ellington. I flew most of the way back from Beaumont. I can tell I am also making progress with my flying, even though that isn't a skill that I need to develop at the moment since comm and nav is my job. But, it is fun to try. I even did fairly decent on the approach into Ellington. Sometimes it is all I can do to either fly in a turn or fly a descent. When you put both together and have to adjust the throttles also, well that is pretty much my limit. We did a few touch-and-go's back at Ellington (you never want to land with too much gas. . .). I always enjoy those since we will go zooming up and turn downwind with a 90 degree bank. The other evening I was at my soccer game and we were playing at a field close to Ellington. The winds were such that the landing pattern was right over the soccer field. There were a couple T-38s that were doing touch-and-go's. Some of my team mates watched a bit and said that it really looked like a lot of fun. Yup, it sure is.

On one hand Wednesday was a fairly light day for me, I didn't have anything scheduled training-wise. On the other hand it wasn't since the trainers had us running stairs at boot camp. I am definitely going to be sore. I used so much energy during the exercise that I was absolutely starving afterwards. It was all I could do to haul myself to the cafeteria and have a sausage biscuit (very tasty - but probably undid all the good I did with the stairs). The rest of the day, while I was trying to recover from boot camp, I read Shuttle training manuals. All I can say is that the Data Processing System (the computers and associated equipment) makes for some very dry reading.

Thursday was much like Wednesday. Boot camp followed by studying Shuttle systems most of the day. I was right about being sore. My calves and quads definitely are talking about all the stairs yesterday. For the boot camp fun today we did the usual "jogging" followed by various calisthenics, sprints, pull-ups, pushups, and a game of tag. By the time we were jogging back to the gym, my legs were ready to throw in the towel. I would like to say, for the record, I did regular pushups and did over 30 of them in the two minutes we were doing pushups. Not too bad, in my opinion, for someone that never has occasion to do pushups. Can't say I had the same success in the pull-ups arena.

I finished off the week with another T-38 flight. This flight was another "out and back." We went to Amarillo and back!!! I remember driving to Amarillo from Houston upon occasion. I think it took something like 10 hours or more. Ha! In the T-38 it takes about an hour. Amazing. On the way back, the pilot arranged with the air traffic controllers for us to do a "canyon tour." This was great! The Palo Duro Canyon is just to the west of the usual flight path to/from Houston. In the canyon tour, we stayed a couple thousand feet above the ground and flew a path that paralleled the center of the canyon. How nifty is that? The canyon does some jigs and jogs that we followed with a 90 degree bank, of course. You might as well have a really good view if you are looking at the canyon. After our tour, we started climbing to our cruising altitude of 33,000 feet. We were about three quarters of the way there when the air traffic controller called to ask if we could expedite getting to altitude. Can we expedite. . .but, of course. . . Hit those afterburners, baby, let's expedite! Can't do that in a Warrior. . . All in all, a fun training session. When I was through flying, Andy and I loaded up and headed out to the Hill Country for a little R&R and land working for our three day weekend.

© Shannon Walker   2004

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Revised 11-05-04