astronaut candidate Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, one of three mission specialist-educator
candidates in NASA's 2004 astronaut class, poses with a T-38 jet trainer aircraft
at Ellington Field.|
Candidates 2004 - Training Journals
We reported to Ellington Field in Houston
for a week of ground school on NASA’s training jet, the T-38N. The instruction
by the NASA instructor pilots was great. These folks love what they do –flying.
They also really seemed to enjoy sharing their passion for flight with other people.
the most important skill we learned was proper use of the ejection seat. It is
definitely one of those skills that you want to do very well while at the same
time hoping you never have to use it. Bailing out of the T-34, which we flew in
Pensacola, essentially involved climbing out on the wing and jumping off the back.
Sitting on a rocket-loaded chair is another thing altogether, especially when
one considers that the T-38 flies so much faster than a T-34. There are nine points
of attachment to the ejection seat and an additional three more to put on the
parachute harness. When you get ready to fly, it definitely feels like you are
strapping on an airplane rather strapping into one.
T-38 has a front and back seat and both members of the aircrew play an important
role in flight. All mission specialists train to become “back-seaters”
while pilots are referred to as “front-seaters.” Once qualified as
a back-seater, a mission specialist’s main job in the T-38 is to navigate
the plane while maintaining air-to-ground communication. Essentially, this two-person
team works to conduct the flight more safely and for longer durations than a pilot
could while flying alone.
ground school, we were ready to go. The first flight took us out over the Gulf
of Mexico where many of us traveled supersonic (faster than sound) for the first
time. Planes traveling at this speed use the Mach scale, with Mach 1 indicating
that the plane is traveling at the speed of sound, Mach 2 would indicate that
you are traveling twice the speed of sound, and so on. While it was very exciting
to do this for the first time, truth be told, Mach 1.3 just didn’t seem
that different from Mach 0.93. There was no noise or shaking that one might have
expected. Still, the instructor pilots let all of us take the controls as we flew
supersonic which was quite a thrill! Flying a plane at Mach 1 was something I
didn’t think I’d be doing this time last year. We also did a zero-g
maneuver, which in many ways, was a lot more fun that Mach 1. I could feel myself
floating and see things float in the cockpit
– a first taste of space flight, even if it only lasted for a couple of
L. (Bobby) Satcher Jr., one of six mission specialist candidates, gets a closeup
look at one of the agency's T-38 jet trainer aircraft.|
following flights introduced us to the “meat and potatoes” of aviation.
More specifically, experiencing why mission specialists learn to operate a two-person
jet in preparation for spaceflight. In the aviation world, it is called, “complete
resource management” or “CRM.” In a high performance jet there
is a lot going on, and due to the high speeds it all appears to happen very quickly.
Consequently, good decisions need to be made in a very short time. CRM describes
the way that two or more people work together as a team to anticipate and react
to situations within a high stress environment.
will be continuing to train on the T-38 very intensively over the next year, which
will call for approximately 100 hours of flight time. Given that a typical flight
is between one and two hours long, this will involve quite a bit of “strapping
on the airplane.” Over the course of our astronaut careers, we will continue
to train on the T-38 on a regular basis. How fun is that?
The Astronaut Candidate Class of 2004