Adversary Course – Miramar
By lex, on January 23rd, 2006
Miramar it was, and back in the 90′s too, what with your humble scribe being an adversary pilot but recently arrived from the purgatorial southern swamps of Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, from whence liberated, like Prometheus unchained from a demanding flight schedule, bound as he had been like any galley slave and forced to fly two – sometimes three! – air combat flights in a day, alack, and alas and if your heart wasn’t made of brass, wicked thing that you are, then perhaps you would have felt more sorry for him.
“Go west, young man!” the operations officer had said, meaning TOPGUN when he said it, and the adversary course to be more particular, challenging though it was to fragile egos and given in judiciously and repeatedly applied thumps by the world’s finest fighter pilots, themselves accustomed to treading the hallowed halls of the Prestigious Navy Fighter Weapons School with the heavy step of Praetorian guards. The School itself was not unlike Valhalla to a man of a certain age, never mind the repeated getting of your ass kicked by your betters.
So your scribe and a brother of another mother paired themselves up in a two-seat F-16N and did as they were asked, desired and required, pre-flighting, manning up and tearing the sky apart in a vertical departure before rolling her over on a westerly heading out over the Gulf of Florida and towards Barksdale, Louisiana, that being a short stop on account of all the damn gas we’d burned just getting out of home, profligate wastrels that we were with our vertical departure, and no stewards of the national bounty. At all.
Even if you’re not into watching lots of wingsuit videos you’ve got to check out this one at about the the minute mark. It gives you a great perspective of what they’re really doing.
Morning in Greenland. No internet in the hotel so checking weather will have to wait. Head down to grab some breakfast that’s hopefully not been buried in the ground for two months then off to the control tower to see if we’re flying to Canada or Iceland. Caught up with Marcio who had some good news for us. Seemed that the new owner of the Cirrus managed to sort out the customs problem and we were cleared to continue on to Canada. Good thing he did too, because if we’d had to fly back to Iceland, sit a few days doing paperwork and then make the Greenland crossing a third time, well let’s just say it was gonna cost him. I don’t risk my life for free you know.
With the paperwork problem solved all that was left to do was to get one more North Atlantic leg behind us and we’d be home free. OK we would still have to fly all the way across Canada and most of the US but heck even normal pilots could do that. The downhill takeoff that shot us out over the water was fun as usual then Marcio and I enjoyed the low level flight through the fjord out to the ocean, always one of my favorite routs.
The rest of the flight from Greenland to Goose Bay Labrador was relatively uneventful, thank god because if it was eventful that would mean emergency, screaming, water, pain, death, that sort of thing. We did pick up some ice on approach into Goose but we were only moderately concerned for our lives, not even worth mentioning.
To be continued:
By lex, on March 24th, 2006
Successful completion of carrier qualifications, or CQ, marks a critically important milestone in the career of a student naval aviator. Landing safely and expeditiously aboard the ship is what distinguishes the Navy pilot from his more pedestrian, prosaic, even rustic, counterparts in the Air Force.
My first CQ was aboard the USS LEXINGTON (AVT-16) in 1984. The Lex was ancient, even then: First launched in 1942, and weighing in at a mere 42,000 tons (as opposed to over 100k on a NIMITZ class) she seemed impossibly small, almost fragile to the fleet experienced pilots that would take us out for our first CQ. She was only 910 feet long, with just more than half of that length on her angled deck landing area.
But she was also a living piece of naval aviation history, the “Grey Ghost,” thrice claimed as sunk by the Japanese during World War II, and thrice returned to the fight. During her long and illustrious career, she fought at Tarawa, Truk, Kwajalein, the battles of the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf and elsewhere through the Pacific, earning 11 battle stars. Her final strike into Japan was ordered to return and jettison their bombs after word was received of the Japanese surrender.
To generations of students bound for her overhead marshall stack, she represented an implacable and unavoidable obstacle on their professional journeys; the path to the Navy Wings of Gold led through the Lady Lex