By lex, on October 2nd, 2011
Two hops today, adding a whole 3.1 to my previous 4.1. Amazing to think that you can nearly double a month’s flight time in a single day, but that’s the simultaneous curse and blessing of very small numbers.
Was up at 0530, as I ordinarily am. Quietly got dressed and prepared to go to breakfast, then to work. The fellow I’m staying with cracked an eye at 0730 and allowed as how he’d come along. I know what you’re doing, he said. You’re being the TOPGUN guy, trying to get there first, spend the most hours. Nothing of the kind, I’m a full-time employee, and on the clock. But it’s Sunday. You’re right, I forgot. The days run all together.
Which in any case it was fortuitous, for one of the Hunters was down and there was a scramble to fill the sortie. Would I go on the first mission? Of course. Followed my lead, a young man in a Hunter, with the company some little time, and upon entering the operating area we were assigned separate CAP stations, hizzoner in the 20-24 block, myself in the 30-34. Which it took a time getting there, carrying all that clabber; two drop tanks, a TCTS pod and the EA jimmy-whacker. Got vectored hither and yon and finally found myself at the merge with a solitary Hornet. Or nearly. Something went wrong for him, and just five miles from the merge he turned 90 degrees to the right, offering me a most inviting target. Made a good job of extending away for a bit, but then began a huge, arcing turn that allowed me to rendezvous to firing parameters. I took the shot almost regretfully. Almost.
Better to suffer a bit of humility in training that to bleed in combat.
The next intercept had me rendezvousing at the six o’clock of two non-players, or at least I hope they weren’t. Not in a tactical formation really, and no reaction whatsoever to my presence. From there it was time to go home and I did so on my lonesome. Into the overhead, two low approaches and a full stop.
The second hop followed hard on the heels of the first, and now with our company’s director of operations. Sixty-five years old and still elbowing his way to the front of the queue for afterburner time. My hero.
The hop went well, although we had our arses handed to us – as it should be – but the airplane was starting to feel, for the first time, a bit like home. I knew where things were supposed to go as I manned up and strapped in, the kneeboard, checklists, helmet and O2 mask. I had a plan for strapping in, getting started, getting out to the hold short. Nothing loose or adrift, no minor detail omitted. A good take-off and rendezvous, good formation keeping to the area.
We did our presentations, headed home with just sufficient fuel, my first approach was thoroughly acceptable, the landing still interesting, but no longer riveting. Getting the feel of it, sensing her talk to me throughout the approach. Listening, at last, to her gentle urgings.
But I couldn’t help noticing that each time I took my o2 mask off to wipe away some sweat, my left hand automatically reached down to the oxygen shut-off valve. And when I landed and taxied clear, my right hand went to safe the ejection seat. Neither of which controls or switches exists within the confines of the Kfir.
It takes the mind a while to get itself wrapped around a new environment. But the hands, they don’t forget.