Sorry for the long delay between posts, I have been flying twice a day for the past week and a half and haven't had much time for anything other than studying and flying! But to make up for it, today's topic is super exciting, I got selected to fly Jets! Yesterday was our "selection night" where students are told what stream they have been selected to fly (Either Jets, Multi Engine, or Helicopters). I decided I wanted to fly jets at a very young age, and have been working towards this for the better part of ten years. Now, I should take a moment to explain that this selection of "Jets" comes with a huge asterisk. Being selected for the Jet stream does not guarantee that I'll fly the F-18, it only guarantees that I will complete PH III on the Harvard II in Moose Jaw. PH III is a mandatory phase for anyone wanting to fly the F18, but upon completion it is possible I will be selected to become an instructor on the Harvard II rather than go on to the Hawk aircraft and then the Hornet. Of course, after my three years as an instructor if I still want to fly the F18 I will then be sent on to the Hawk and the F18. It is also possible that I complete PH III, and then complete the Hawk course, and then become an instructor. In the best case scenario of completing PH III, completing the Hawk course in Moose Jaw, and then completing the Hawk tactical flying course in Cold Lake, and finally completing the F18 course at 410 in Cold Lake I am looking at a minimum of 2 years before I am F18 qualified. A more likely timeline (considering delays between courses etc) is around 3 years. Even after that I won't be "operations qualified" on the F18 for another few months. Despite the incredibly long road to flying the F18, and the many obstacles, twists and turns and delays, being selected to fly Jets is the first step on this road. For that reason, I am incredibly excited to have been selected Jets and am looking forward to PH III on the Harvard II.
Because the result of selection is obviously a big deal to students (not only for the obvious getting what you want reason, but also because of implications of where they will live and work in the future), an interesting aspect of selection is how they decide to tell you what you've been selected for. If you think you would get called into an office, sat down and told, you would be mistaken. No, the manner in which you are told is completely up to the discretion of the course director (the officer in charge of the admin for our course), and they are often creative and entertaining ways that keep students guessing until the last minute. Sometimes they are simple and only involve chugging a beer or taking a shot to flip the cup over and see your selection written on the bottom of the glass. Sometimes they involve puzzles and codes that students have to decipher. One example of this was the selection for two courses before me. The course of 15 had three groups from each of the flights (Apache, Bandit and Cobra), and each group was given a geocache (just google it) to find. Upon finding their geocache it contained pictures of Jets, Multis and Helos, and the number of photos of each represented the number of spots available for each type. Next they were given a coded series of numbers they had to decipher which would reveal who had gotten what spot out of the photos. Sometimes they are simply painful, such as the story of a selection where they were brought to a paintball field, and one by one were shot with a paintball, the color of which represented your selection. In our case, we were instructed to bring our favorite condiment, earplugs, a bathing suit, and the story of the dumbest thing we had done on course, and were led to a shooting range. Once there we had to present our favorite condiment, tell our stupidest story, and then shoot one of three targets representing our first choice. Obviously one target represented Jets, the other Multi, and the last Helo. They were also colored differently, Red for Jets, Blue for Helo, Green for Multi.(The bathing suits were simply to confuse us and throw us off the scent). After everyone had shot their choice, we studied the targets and found that 5 wanted Helos, 4 wanted Jets, and 5 wanted Multis. From there we were told that two of those shots would have to be moved to accurately represent the number of spots available to our course. This left us guessing for a while until we returned back to the mess on base. At the mess we were each given a child's sippy cup/bottle that contained an unknown alcoholic liquid. We were instructed to drink the liquid, and then stick out our tongues. The liquid would have dyed our tongues Blue, Green, or Red, with the color corresponding to the color's of the targets we had shot earlier. This was a really fun way to learn our selection as it ultimately ended up with us all sticking out our tongues at each other and asking the person next to us to tell us what color it was.
One of the benefits of having my next course on the Harvard II aircraft, is that it occurs right here in Moose Jaw and as such there is little to no delay between finishing Phase II and commencing Phase III. In fact, in my case I will be starting PH III immediately after PH II. Quite literally one day I will finish PH II, and the next day I will come in to work and start PH III. This is a great feeling as I can simply maintain the routine I have been in for the previous 9 months, and keep flying. This means that my expected graduation (and getting my wings!) will be around November of this year. Students going Multi and Helo aren't as lucky as there are currently significant delays in the training system with the next available openings on course being approximately 4 months for Multis, and over a year delay for Helos. That isn't to say I wont face delays, the Hawk course and F18 course in Cold Lake notoriously have huge delays, but the difference is my delays will come later in my career. As it stands I have 16 missions left to complete and expect to be done PH II in two weeks. On PH III I will get to learn more advance maneuvers such as flapless final turns, vertical aerobatics, and advanced formation maneuvers such as the flat turn. Stay tuned to hear all about these as I continue on my long path towards becoming a fighter pilot!