That was what the first eight weeks of flight school was all about. Turning a rotor. Six weeks of Warrant Officer Entry Course, also known as A Company. Then we moved to B Company, and spent two weeks being the upper classman’s bitch. After those two weeks, we became pilots!
We finally got to “turn a rotor”. Once we “turned a rotor”, everything changed. Up until that point, you were disposable. Just give the Army a reason to eliminate you and you were gone! But once you “turned a rotor”, your value increased, and you really had to screw up to get eliminated. Being a horseshit pilot was definitely grounds for illumination. And there were a few of those.
Oh, and one more first, we finally get to wear our flight suits! Air Assault!
My memories of that first day on the flight line was of excitement, apprehension…fear?
The fear? That was a product of my flight experiences leading up to this day. Remember those? What if I hated it? What if it was a vibrating, nauseating, miserable experience?
What if I couldn’t fly?
You need to portray confidence to be a pilot, but you may not always feel it.
In B Company, we were still very much candidate status. We had to live in the barracks, we marched everywhere in formation, and we had to take a bus to the flight line. There were many bus rides, but I can’t tie any of those memories to this day.
We filed into the briefing room, our instructors already sitting at the formation of briefing tables. My instructor was an overweight, antique pilot. I would learn over the next several weeks, that he started flying for the Army during WWII. At first blush, I assumed he was going to be a crotchety old man where I could do no right.
I was so wrong.
All the other students were two to an instructor, but I was the odd man out. The first two weeks, I was one on one.
At this phase of our training, our instructors were civilians, or DAC, Department of the Army Civilians. Most if not all were former military pilots. Mine was retired, several years ago. Well, many, many, dacades ago.
I so wish I would remember his name.
That first day, I don’t recall much about the briefing, or most of what my instructor shared with me. My log book, dated Dec 16, 1985, says familiarization with aircraft. The one thing that stands out from the preflight briefing was these words.
“Once we get out there, we will hover to the end of the runway; ask for clearance to take off. Once clearance was granted, I will nose the aircraft over, it will fly a few feet, and it will pop up into the air.”