So I’m heading back to San Antonio today! I have 15.6 flight hours, 44 landings, and ground school under my belt, if flight suits had belts (about $2,000 I didn’t have to pay for lessons). My instructor said he got his private pilot’s license and all the maneuvers taught here after about 65 hours. They give us 20 to do it here.
My last flight was my best one yet! It was the elimination ride, as they call it, and while my maneuvers were impeccable, the only thing I was unable to do was land on the small airfield. It actually hooks a lot of people. I rode with a lieutenant colonel, the commander of the 1st Flying Training Squadron. He was really relaxed and I took off, flew us fifteen miles to the maneuvering areas (where I perform stalls, steep turns, etc.), then on to the airfield and into the traffic pattern. After a few botched landings and go-arounds, he took the aircraft and said, “Okay Lieutenant, talk me through a landing. Tell me exactly what to do and tell me what to say on the radio.” Since I’m a badass at studying and know exactly what to do, just not so hot at doing it, I did a fantastic job of that exercise. Then, he preceded to cover up the GPS and said, “You think you can get me home without using the GPS?” We have to hit a few waypoints on the way, so I stepped up, confident as ever. I snapped into action and flew us home perfectly, citing points off the nose of the aircraft and being generally badass at it. This was definitely a test to see how well I multi-task from a navigator perspective and to see if I was book smart. Evidently, I passed.
My commander said “Lt Martin’s academic preparation, mission planning, attitude, officership, and motivation were exceptional…”
But… long story short: I simply cannot land the plane here, but I’ll still return to San Antonio and be a navigator.
So, Lar visited me Tuesday and Wednesday; we spent a total of about seven hours together. I drove to the airport in Colorado Springs to pick him up and waited about ten minutes until he came down the escalator. I was behind a column so he couldn’t see me, and I exclaimed, “Behbeh!” He turned around and I’ll never forget how his face looked: a look of extreme relief, excitement and total disbelief all in a split second, until he broke out into a huge grin. We made quite a scene in the airport: he dropped his military-issued bags and hugged me for what seemed like forever. About five or six people started gathering around… they probably figured he was returning from Iraq or something, what with his military bags and jarhead haircut.
I had already checked him into his hotel so we wouldn’t have to haggle with that after his long trip (8 hours of flights and layovers), and had set up a little basket of snacks, a gift bag, cards and a magazine (with funny written-in comments) for him. We spent the two hours we had that night just curled up together after seven weeks apart.
He brought me new Air Force-issued sweatpants because I left mine in some crappy hotel in San Antonio before I checked in to my new squadron last month. Score! They are hideous, yes, but oh so comfortable.
I am hoping to drive back to San Antonio today, but I’m waiting on the commander to sign some paperwork. Hurry up! I think it’s lunchtime, then nap time. I can’t wait to get home…