Jul 27, 2009

the state is on fire

This is our King Air, C-12, twin-engine Navy plane:
My 'desk':
Denali!At least 70 wildfires are burning throughout the state at the moment. This is a major one down near Nenana, just west of where we takeoff and land at Eielson Air Force Base:Flying through smokey clouds is pretty crazy. outside of the airplane is a yellow-gray glow, and everything inside the airplane smells like a campfire.The eastern edge of the Alaska Range, just south of Eielson, on the horizon:

Jul 14, 2009

I'm in the Navy?

I headed down to Pensacola, Florida for Aviation Physiology Training at the Naval Air Station. Why did I have to go get trained by the Navy? Well, I'm flying airborne gravity surveys for a NOAA-funded project this summer, and since the planes are Navy-operated, everyone on board has to be Navy certified. The soonest training available was in Pcola, so I crossed the entire country for 3 days of power point presentations and semi-fun simulations.

I was one of two civilians in a class of 25, and one of 4 women. I felt really tough in the flight gear until I saw this photo of myself. Maybe I'm not cut out for the military after all.The simulations included the MSDD (Multi-Spatial Disorientation Demonstrator) - sortof a glorified "teacups", but the cups are fully enclosed, dark pods with a dashboard and visor thing with moving lines. The idea is that you can't tell what horizontal is or what direction you are spinning. It works, and I didn't puke!

We were also put in a hyperbaric chamber, which I only went up to 9000 feet in, but others went to 25,000 feet to experience the effects of hypoxia. At 25,000' they had to take off their oxygen masks and play patty-cake with a partner. After less than 1 minute, most people were screwing up patty-cake pretty bad. A few people lasted a long time with a goofy smile on their faces (later reported feeling euphoric), but were still unable to follow very basic instructions.

The final day was in the pool, we had to swim, tread water, and do some basic underwater tasks in a flight suit, vest, helmet, boots, gloves. Then we got flipped upside down while strapped into a chair with a 5-point seatbelt, and needed to pull out the window, release the belt and swim through the window frame. I also practiced inflating my life vest and climbing into a rescue basket as if being rescued from the water by a Navy helicopter. Exciting!

NAS Pensacola is home to the National Naval Aviation Museum, which is a super cool place, and I don't even like airplanes much.
The missiles on this plane are clearly labeled "Inert".
The command module for the month-long Skylab II mission flown to the orbiting space station in May-June 1973 is on loan from the Smithsonian:The Naval cemetery:
Pensacola Beach was crazy crowded (especially between July 4 weekend and Blue Angels weekend), but I found a nice chill spot for afternoon swims and naps.I stayed in a cute B&B, close to historic downtown Pensacola - established in 1859! - which is very cool, and with interesting architecture, but sortof ghosttowny. My last night in town I went to a tapas place and met a famous DJ (A-Trak) because of his polar bear action figure, although i didn't know how famous he was until afterwards.