I HAVE FLIGHT RECORDS that describe by numbers the week-on-week routine of living in an office that traveled 400 miles per hour across the Oklahoma landscape near Vance Air Force Base in the early 80s.
I stumbled across the records in my attic and some scrawled notes about a vigorous routine that I would never be able to maintain today. My day often started 70 minutes before sunrise as I mounted a 10-speed bicycle and rode in the dark to the flight line. Once there, my flight commander opened the daily briefing. It would be another 40 minutes before the sun rose.
I had a desk towards the back of the room and three student pilots sat around the desk. Their Class Leader would give a time hack, followed immediately by a weather briefing that gave us an idea about the length of time we would spend in aircraft that day. A student pilot would present the weather, making him or her a prime target for follow-on questions by instructors like myself. The goal was normally to make the briefer (a student) feel worthless as a meteorologist.
Another student then read the comments from the Runway Supervisory Unit (RSU). Every student had personal call signs. Anything they did wrong in the traffic pattern would be read out for the entire flight to hear. Infractions were mostly procedural, such as incorrect radio calls. Every infraction resulted in a monetary fine. The money was put to good use at regular solo-out parties, Canton Lake BBQs, or hail and farewell events.
Most of the real action was saved for the Stand Up Emergency Procedures session. The Stan/Eval (Standardization/Evaluation) officer took the podium and fingered a student to an emergency condition. Our Staneval pilot could spin three or four students into a single EP session. If a student messed up part of the 20-minute scenario, he or she normally was grounded for the day. I knew some very athletic student pilots who would be reduced to withering masses of sweat after a good EP session.
Things have changed since I instructed at Vance because I had a lot of table time with my students. I spent a lot of time with maps, warnings, cautions and notes from the Dash One (an over-sized owner's manual for the T-38). I expected students to know whole sections of the Dash One verbatim. I could see students chair flying at supersonic speeds. They were ready for the real thing--and the sun still wasn't up in the sky.
Life has become a softer for me ever since I hung up the parachute.
Photo from the Vance AFB T-38 flight line.