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Pre Flight Training

Arriving at Edwards AFB at 8AM I had first to get the appropriate visitor's pass and identification. It seemed that every second door or gate that Mark and I went through had either a card to slide through a reader or codes to punch in to pass through. There would be a feeling of not being welcome with all this security but the people were extremely friendly and went out of their way perhaps even moreso than the usual workplace to make visitors feel welcome.

Next was to get measured for flight gear then head off to the "doc" for a physical. It was the usual check of the vitals that lasted only about 8 or 10 minutes and with a slightly elevated pulse and BP (probably from the anticipation and or fear that they weren't going to let me fly) they said I passed.

Now for some thinking and learning. Since catastrophy is always possible and in such an aircraft such emergencies would usually occur in rapid order requiring a fast response, there is a great need to prepare on how to "get out" both in an on the ground situation and in the air. The chances of such an emergency are indeed remote but nonetheless I truly felt it was important to pay attention and really absorb the procedures.

To learn the egress (ground level escape) and ejection (in air escape) procedures I first had to get into the flight gear. "Strip" they said and then we had a discussion as to whether my underwear was fire proof. A fireproof t-shirt and flight suit was donned and then a g-suit which is essentially a tight pair of jeans with a corset-like lace up the back. Inserted in various places in the g-suit are bladders that are supposed to inflate by an air pressure supply from the F18 to REALLY make it tight. On top of that was worn a harness that was much like the basics of a skydiving rig. Several tries were needed to get a mask that would be a leakproof fit. They had a cockpit simulator where I was to learn both how to connect up and demonstrate a rapid disconnect. The bulk of the face mask made it difficult to see the many attachment points that were needed to be released for the egress but the 8 to 10 seconds it took me was considered acceptable and we then went into ejection procedures.

I am not a fan of guns and the thought of a fairly easy pulling loop akin to a gun trigger that would destroy a $25 million aircraft and injure both myself and Mark was as much uncomfortable as it was reassuring . It was an easy access to the 6" tall triggering loop that rose between the legs near the crotch, kind of like the horn of a saddle for horseback riding. Freefall procedures, altitude judgement, reserve activation, and a series of "what if" scenarios could make the timid and imaginative quite tentative. There is attached to the harness that sits under the seat a "kit" that contains a host of usefull items should one find themselves, well... in the wilderness. Everything from rafts to radios, and flares to food. We even had to talk about plf's which was about the only thing that wasn't new to me.