Erika Karls.jpg

2nd Lt. Erika Karls

This week marks the end of the 15-Day program for Class 15-01. The first big hurdle for any new UPT class, the end of the 15-Day program is essentially the end of a stringent structure.

We will no longer have Stand Up, shotgun questions, reciting notes, warnings or cautions daily. As students, we are officially responsible for our training from here on out - no one holding our hands on what to study! Exciting and intimidating, but I think we are up to the challenge.

As we progress through each block of training, the maneuvers we are exposed to become more advanced. This week, we start spins. In a spin, we intentionally stall the aircraft and introduce yaw in one direction, causing the aircraft to rotate about its vertical axis.

Why we would do this on purpose sounds ridiculous to me - but I hear it's a lot of fun!

Second Lt. Bobby Bergendahl explained how he felt before doing his first spin: "It was awesome. At first, I was a little apprehensive. Turned out to be really fun. My advice -- go into the maneuvers with an open mind and be committed - you really don't know what you and the aircraft are capable of until you go all in. In general, don't let you fears or apprehension prevent you from focusing on the big picture - graduating pilot training with wings."

It seems like yesterday we walked into the classroom, wide eyed and confused but eager to start pilot training. And though only three weeks in on the flight line, we have come quite a ways.

In the spirit of the holidays, we'd like to thank our friends and families for supporting us thus far.

Our days are never the same and we often don't know how to explain our experiences -- mostly because we haven't formed a complete idea ourselves. Please continue to be patient with us, and keep asking us questions! This isn't a job in which praise is valued, and being brand new means we know nothing - and I mean nothing.

It may seem that we aren't "having fun" at times - in a sense, being constantly critiqued is taxing, this is true. But as I was telling my parents one evening, at this point it's all worth it if we can get one thing right - one smooth landing on a full stop after a series of "safe-but-could-have-been-much-better" touch-and-goes.

Or keeping our altitude in transit, or nailing our radio calls, or flying a perfect pattern ground track. Granted, we probably aren't accomplishing all those things on a single mission just yet. But we'll get there.

Being held to a standard of excellence is difficult and frustrating. But none of us would have it any other way. It really is the best job in the world!

Tips for new students: Keep track of the mistakes you make each flight and annotate in detail how you'll prevent or correct each of them, either in a notebook or type up handwritten notes later. Knowing how to correct them on paper will make it easier to recall corrections mid-flight. It also gives you some idea of "trend" items or mistakes you make frequently.

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