When I re-joined the CAP after 9/11, I didn't do much flying. I didn't have the the Pilot In Command (PIC) experience to fly most CAP missions. I picked up the Mission Transport Pilot (MTP) rating, but the opportunity to fly left seat with nothing more than a MTP rating are slim pickings... Really, the bulk of my flying in CAP aircraft over the last few years has been on my own dime.
Last year I finally accumulated the PIC time to become a Mission Pilot - Trainee. (MP-T) For years I've been riding shotgun as a Mission Scanner (MS) or a Mission Observer. (MO) Lot's of times I simply laced up my boots and donned my Tac Vest and served as a Ground Team Leader (GTL) on missions, leaving the doughnut eating and the aviating, to the grey haired ZSSGs.
Recently I finally got the chance to serve as a Mission Pilot (T) in my home Wing. I flew in support of a Regional Disaster Relief Exercise. Over 3 days, I logged 11.2 hours across 8 sorties, in 3 different airframes. I did some things well, and some things not-so-well. So I want to share the experience here with you...
This mission actually started a day earlier than I expected it to. Later Friday morning I got a phone call from My Wing Operations Officer, asking me if I wanted to go fly that evening.
He told me that I needed to fly our
beat up trusty old C-182 workhorse of a Skylane up to an nearby airport and swap airframes. I guess the theory was that The Press may come out to the Mission Base, and they wanted all the shiny red, white, & blue aircraft there then next morning. Our capable, but long-in-the-tooth, Skylane was going to be used for Cadet Orientation Rides instead that weekend.
I hate to fly a four place airplane with 3 empty seats. So I called around my unit to see if anyone wanted to fly with me on the repositioning hops. One of our newer guys, a student pilot, jumped at the chance. This was to be his first chance to fly in a CAP aircraft, and I was happy to have the company.
So we met up after work and headed to the airport. Now just flying up to a local airport on the civilian side has plenty of rituals that need attending. Weather has to be checked, ditto for any TFRs that may have popped up. Then there is the usual pre-flight, etc.
But flying with CAP adds additional complications. Before launching I had to call the Mission Incident Commander and get a Flight Release. No problem there, just a quick phone call to get a mission number, and let him know who would be flying with me. Of course, the mission number changed four times as the evening went on.
So with all that taken care of, we launched into the night for a short cruise up the other airfield. My newly minted air-crewman was having a blast. As good Cockpit Resource Ma management (CRM) demands, I pressed him into service with checklists and keeping an eye out for traffic. It was a nice smooth flight with no surprises. Greased the landing too.
Earlier that afternoon, I had called the destination FBO, and had advised them of my arrival time, and asked them to please pull the CAP bird out of the hanger to make the swap go quicker. So of course as I navigated the big airport, I kept looking for a red, white, and blue Cessna parked on the ramp. It wasn't there. So we taxied to what I knew to be the correct hanger ramp and shut down. We found it parked inside.
Of course, government paperwork being what it is, we couldn't just swap our headsets in to the other airframe (a shiny, steam gauge C-182T) and blast off...
We had to complete the paper work for the first sortie, secure the airplane, and get her fueled. CAP aircraft are emergency vehicles, and we have to treat them as such. So even though I had only burned off eight tenths of an hour of fuel getting up there, I still had to wait around for them to fuel the airplane, and then wait even longer for them to get the
fracking receipt. (The AF requires us to turn in the original BTW) All told, we had to muck around for two hours on the field before heading back. Most of that time being CAP procedure related. I have a sense of humor about these things.
Once we flew back, put the new bird to bed, and finally got home, my night was no over... I still had more paperwork to do...
I had been specifically asked to bring 4 pieces of paperwork with me when I reported to the Mission Base then next morning...
- CAPF 104s for each sortie (count 'em, 3)
- A CAPF 71 for the aircraft that I was signing into the mission
So I sat down at my computer and fired up the printer. In addition to the required paperwork, I jumped into a spreadsheet and generated a Weight & Balance sheet, using this crew's weights for the morning flight... and I even took the extra step to log into the Wing Management Utility and print out CAPF 60s for the entire aircrew.
At the time, I thought that being extra prepared, would buy me some extra credit points with the Air Boss. (Air Branch Director)
Boy was I wrong.
But as they say, that's another post...
I'll post about Saturday next time.