Parker's First Solo in the T-6 | Anchors Aweigh


Parker's First Solo in the T-6

I wanted to be able to document Parker's first solo in the T-6, but I wasn't able to be there, and I have never flown a plane, so I would have been about as descriptive and accurate as a 4 year old. Parker agreed to write the post, and I am so glad he did! Here is his take on his first T-6 solo:

Flying through the air alone at 240 knots and 2500 ft AGL (above ground level) isn't something a lot of people get to do. Not only is the cost of flying an airplane with this kind of performance prohibitively expensive, but it is also inherently dangerous. Fortunately for me, God has blessed me with an outstanding opportunity. Not only do I get to serve my country, but I get to have fun doing it. Last Thursday I had the privilege of taking a United States Navy T-6B on a solo flight. The contact solo is a big checkpoint as an aviator. It symbolizes that a student is good enough to fly an airplane without the assistance of an instructor.

Before you are allowed to fly alone, you have to pass a few tests. The Monday before my solo, I had a check ride with an Air Force instructor named Major Werner. The goal of the checkride is to ensure that a student is "safe" for solo. Although it didn't go as smoothly as I might have liked, I passed. The morning of my solo, the weather was not as nice as it could have been. Although it was forecast to get better, I was wary since I had been cancelled for weather just two days earlier. Eventually we had the 5,000/5 needed for solo flight, and I got a plane issued to me. I excitedly wrote 048 on my hand and proceeded to get dressed out in my flight gear.

Like anything you do for the first time, pre-flighting my own airplane had its own set of challenges. There was a moth wedged in my temperature probe and it looked like my airplane had done a low level through a swamp. It was covered in dead bugs. I secured the rear seat for solo with the help of two separate linemen and then proceeded with the standard ground ops.

I taxied/took off without issue and headed out to our practice area. It is funny how when there is no instructor in the back, it seems like you can't do anything wrong. Of course this is not correct, and what is really happening is that you are too inexperienced to notice the stupid stuff you are actually doing.

Another problem with flying alone is that weird stuff only happens when you are alone. The sky is big and airplanes are small. You can sometimes go an entire flight without actually seeing another airplane (except at airfields). I was transiting to my block when I noticed another T-6 heading right for me. We were both in our "transition zone" flying at our assigned altitudes. I was on a north-westerly heading at 11200ft and he was on a south-easterly heading at 11700ft. I had flown this way on at least 8 flights, and not once had I seen another airplane. Of course as soon as I am alone, here is a T-6 screaming right at me. My flight computer tells me there is a traffic hit and I push my nose over to give us a little more separation and I see him zoom over my head. A "close" call for a solo, but I continue on with my mission.

Once I got to my practice area I was fairly limited in my maneuvers. All of the cool things we can do with an instructor are prohibited on our first solo. I practiced basic airwork called P.A.T. (Power Attitude Trim) for a while and burned some gas. While in the area, I also thought it was fairly entertaining to listen to one of my friends from college, Troy Abney, talk on the radio for his checkride. After I had burned enough gas I started my descent down to NOLF Evergreen. My descent down to  NOLF Evergreen was uneventful and I entered the pattern to practice my landings. This is where a pilot makes his bacon. One mistake down this close to the ground and its "bye bye George." Luckily, my outstanding training kicked in and kept me safe and alive. I had to wave-off my first landing, but I then got three touch and go's with T/O flaps. My departure was standard and I headed back to NAS Whiting Field.

Once safely back on the ground after my flight, there was a big feeling of relief that I had successfully completed my mission. Since VT-3 is a Joint Squadron (we have Air Force guys), I got to take a dunk in the solo tank and walk around the rest of the day wet and cold. I can't say I am too upset though. It was just another day at the office.

Troy and Parker

Andrew and Parker

Parker getting thrown into the solo dunker

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