Week 20
October 25 - 29, 2004

Monday was an interesting day. We had a Shuttle training kickoff day. We were supposed to start our Shuttle training this week, but our schedule has slipped two weeks in order to give us more time to finish up the T-38 syllabus. But, we had the kickoff anyway. In the morning we met the team of folks that are in charge of our Shuttle training. We had introductory briefings on what the Shuttle training program will be like. We will be going to a lot of classes and reading lots of training books; we will be doing computer based training; we will be doing simulations in a variety of simulators, simulators that train only one system at a time to simulators that model the entire Shuttle. I am definitely looking forward to starting this training. It is going to be a lot of fun (as well as a lot of work).

We also got a short briefing on the Space Station training that we will start next spring. Funny, every time someone talks about our overall training template, they always say that it is 18 months long. We heard that again today. Just when exactly do these 18 months start? Has all this flying that we have done not count as part of our training template? I have no idea. But, I guess in the over all scheme of things, it doesn't matter. We will be trained when we are trained.

In the afternoon we met the rest of the training team for Shuttle and Station. It is a lot of people. Don't ask me all their names. I am just glad that we wear badges with our names on them at work. Instead of the usual receiving line / meet a gaggle of people, we had an afternoon of fun. The team for each system on the Shuttle and Station set up an area in their offices with hardware / training tools / toys that represent their systems. And food. Lots and lots of food. It was an afternoon of grazing. To make sure that we were getting to know the training team, they had come up with a game for us. Our class was divided into four groups. Each group was given a list of questions. We were to go to each system and ask them up to three questions. The point was to try and fit the question to the system. If we got the right question matched to the right team then we won a prize. My team did very well (all the questions right on the first try). . . but, then again, we did have a ringer. . .

I spent most of my Tuesday studying the T-38 systems. Later on in the week I am to take my T-38 check ride and I want to be prepared. About the only break in the day was when we had a fire drill.

Wednesday was NASA's Safety and Total Health Day. Once a year, all the NASA centers shut down their regular work (except for the ongoing support for the Space Station, of course) and review safety and health issues. The point is to make sure that we are focused on safety in the workplace and at home, safety in our missions, and are taking care of our health. In the morning we had safety briefings on a variety of topics. JSC also has booths set up in the center of the campus that you can visit and learn about many different safety and health issues. It is a good day.

In the afternoon my class trooped out to Ellington and participated in the annual T-38 Jeopardy game. The instructor pilots host the game each year. It is a team event. The instructor pilots field a team or two and the astronauts also field a team. Our class decided to have a team. We had heard stories about how in years past the pilots managed to skew the rules in mid-game to make sure that they came out on top. Since we were the new kids on the block we were fully prepared to go down in flames. But, wouldn't you know it, we won! It was a complete surprise to everybody, including ourselves. One of our pilots did an outstanding job of knowing the nitty gritty on the T-38. We also employed a pretty good strategy that came to us in the middle of the game. When it was our turn, we asked for all the high point value / hard questions, then, we wouldn't ring in to answer them. We let the other teams give them a try and we would listen to their answers which usually put us on the right path to the correct answers. When they got the questions wrong (and lost a lot of points), we would then ring in with the right answer. I am not sure why no one caught on to what we were doing. But, fun was had by all.

Thursday was also spent studying T-38 systems and procedures in preparation for my check ride on Friday. The check ride is where we are supposed to demonstrate our skills as a backseater in the T-38. We are supposed to handle all the communications, navigations, and checklists. Because the flight was scheduled first thing Friday morning (a 0700 briefing), I got with my instructor pilot in the afternoon to get the required quizzing out of the way, which allows us to sleep in an extra half an hour. I had to prove my knowledge on emergency procedures and operating limits. All of that went quite well.

I wish I could say the same thing about the flight. I think I had one of the worst flights I have had to date. I didn't feel like I was doing anything right. It was embarrassing and rather disheartening. Granted it had been almost three weeks since I had been in a T-38, but I know I can do much better. Why did the bad flight have to be my check ride? Sigh. For our flight we were going to zip over to the Kelly Air Force Base, do a touch and go and them come back to Ellington for a couple more approaches. It should have been straight forward and just like all my other flights. However, just as we were nearing Kelley, air traffic control informed us that Kelly was closed. They had quiet hours. No, this information was not in the NOTAMs because I checked before we left (Notices to Airmen - allegedly up to date information on airfield statuses). So, we had to change our plans real time. Actually, this is pretty real world, so I should have been prepared for something like this. We were routed over to the San Antonio airport. For those that are familiar with the area know that Kelly and the San Antonio airport aren't that far apart. And, even closer if you are going at T-38 speeds. I didn't get us set up for the approach quickly enough so it was rather ugly. And, even though I shouldn't have let it, that pretty much distracted my concentration for the rest of the flight. At least my communications were decent. The pilot graciously passed me, but if it had been up to me I don't think I would have passed me. Oh well. I guess I'll just have to keep flying often to keep up / improve my skills.

© Shannon Walker   2004

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Revised 11-08-04