The past couple weeks have been full days of learning everything I can about the Hawk airframe. From finishing up groundschool, to completing egress training, to moving into Dragon flight, to starting sim missions it's been a busy couple of weeks. I definitely still feel like I'm "drinking from the firehose" but am slowly moving the bar from nervous to excited about flying this airplane for the first time.
Two weeks ago I was just beginning to grasp just how much I didn't know. The reality of how much I had to learn was starting to dawn on me, and if you had told me to get in the airplane and fly it then, I would have been petrified with the fear of screwing something up. Two weeks later and although that feeling is still somewhat there, I am becoming ever so slowly more confident in my knowledge of the aircraft and procedures. I am reminded every day of just how little I know, but I no longer feel like I'm drowning in doubt. This feeling of "just maybe I can do this" comes at a good time because any day now I will get my first flight in the aircraft. I have completed 3 Cockpit Procedure Training (CPT) missions, and 1 clearhood sim mission with 2 left to go before getting in the aircraft. In all likelihood that will occur sometime next week.
As mentioned above, one of the many things I've completed in the past couple weeks was egress training. This is training to prepare us for the possibility of an ejection or an emergency egress from the aircraft. We cover everything from body position when pulling the ejection handle to what to do when under parachute and how to position ourselves for 'landing'. This training is something we have to complete monthly to maintain current on, and the motions and procedures become routine after a few training sessions. We also have a training session in the pool to prepare for a possible ejection over water. This training is simply to get introduced to how to inflate the life vest, enter the dinghy and use the supplies provided with the dinghy, and how to escape from under a parachute without becoming horribly tangled.
In preparation of flying this aircraft I've also spent some time around the aircraft learning the various parts and how to conduct a walk around as well as strap into the aircraft. One thing I've began to appreciate is just how large this aircraft is. That seems silly to say as it is obviously a large aircraft, but it's one thing to see a photo, it's a whole other thing to stand next to one.
Another large difference from the Harvard that becomes immediately apparent is how old the technology in the aircraft is. The Harvard is a relatively brand new aircraft with pretty sophisticated navigation systems and electronic displays. The Hawk has electronic displays, but by comparison very old and outdated navigation equipment. There are many rotary dials rather than digital ones, and mechanical push-buttons and selection switches rather than a computer with a digital selection. The cockpit displays also feel relatively disorganized with switches and gauges seemingly placed at random. The other big difference in the cockpit that I have noticed and already love is the Heads-Up-Display (HUD). This is a system that projects critical information such as attitude, airspeed, and altitude onto a glass pane mounted on the dash so that the pilot can look through the pane of glass and the canopy to see where they are going while still getting aircraft information. This has already proved to be an amazing improvement in the sim, and I can easily see how useful it can be for flying an aircraft effectively.
Finally, the last thing is also the most obvious, but still amazes me every time in the sim is just how fast this aircraft is. As mentioned before, it's quite literally twice as fast as the Harvard, and has no problem going from a dead stop to stupid fast in a hurry. The flip side of that is that it slows down much more slowly than the Harvard. The Harvard has a large speed brake for its size, and the drag from the propeller helps it slow down in a hurry. The Hawk has a relatively small speedbrake, and flaps are a necessity to bring the speed down anything near quickly enough when coming back to land.
So, a short post this week just to touch on the thoughts and emotions I'm having as I get ready to fly this jet. I am very excited to get to fly this aircraft for the first time, and the challenging weeks and months to come.
Stay tuned for my thoughts on the jet once I get flying!