Navy Primary Flight Training: Preparation
If you’re even vaguely familiar with the current state of Navy Flight School, you’re probably well aware of the various bottlenecks currently plaguing NIFE and Primary. While waiting to start training there’s definitely some ways you can spend your time to maximize your performance once the inaugural helmet fire is ready to be lit.
If I were in NIFE right now I would do two things:
- Study for the NIFE exams. The material is thrown at you really quickly once you begin and you don’t want to risk pink sheets right now (apparently they’re giving them out easier than the McDonald’s ribbons).
- Enjoy the beach, Florabama, and maybe even Seville (only if you can’t get a pickup truck to take you to Orange Beach and even then you should consider making the walk).
You’ll have plenty of time to study Primary specific material once you leave NIFE and it probably won’t make as much sense until you’re at either Milton or Corpus anyways.
The Contact Profile Method
The bulk of this post will be how I would spend my time waiting to start training in the T6. A lot of inspiration for this strategy comes form RoarkJr’s AirWarriors post on what he calls the Contact Profile Method. I used his suggestions when I was waiting to class up and will add a bit more of my input to make it a more “complete” guide.
The Perfect Primary Wait Plan
First off, you don’t need to do any preparation prior to starting Primary. However, if you want to be as prepared as possible this will give you some good guidance.
Here’s my Top 5, in relative order of importance (explained in more detail below):
- EP’s and Limits
- All checklists
- Notes, Warnings, Cautions for critical action items
- Learn to fly a pattern
- NATOPS brief
Bonus: An entire contact profile.
1. EP’s and Limits
These are pretty self-explanatory and will probably be the most commonly suggested thing to study when you check in. If it feels crazy to have to memorize all the procedures when you don’t even know what they mean, it’s because it is. You’re not alone. But as you go through memorizing things like “ISS Mode Selector — SOLO” it would definitely help build your knowledge by also looking it up in the NATOPS.
The limits will just take practice. I’d recommend using the blank template on T6B Driver and writing in the answer a chunk at time. For example, start with one column of the Engine Operating Limits section and just keep erasing and redoing until you can move on to the next column. Eventually you’re going to want to quiz yourself using something like Quizlet or Anki so that you don’t rely on the context of writing it on paper to remember.
Side note: I love Anki and plan to do a post on that later but here’s a video explaining why it’s so great.
2. All Checklists
The best piece of advice when I was walking around the sim bay not really knowing what I should be focusing on was to get really fast at the checklists. The Hollywood Checklist/Expanded Checklist Guide is a detailed guide of every action and response that is required when doing any checklist.
The first couple sims are only grading your efficiency of executing the checklists and how verbatim your wording is. Did you really check to see amperage increase? Did you wait for dual-concurrence? What were you supposed to say after OBOGS? All these minutia are graded and are an easy way to get 5’s in your first sims as well as on “Ground Ops” throughout contacts if you’re able to stay proficient.
3. Notes, Warnings, and Cautions
Although I was only ever specifically asked for NWC’s on like three occasions, these are still a really important thing to learn. They help build your overall knowledge of the plane and its systems and explain why we do certain emergency procedures. Some IP’s will give you an instant 5 for your brief if you knock these out, some won’t care. Either way, it will only make you a better pilot.
You’ll hear from a lot of people they need to be verbatim but this is largely untrue. Hitting the key points and parameters (airspeeds, altitudes, etc) from the NWC is the important part for any of these. If an instructor asks you whether one of them is specifically a Note, Warning, or Caution you probably missed several other “IMSAFE” cues and should tread carefully for the rest of the brief.
The key to learning the Notes, Warnings, and Cautions and the NATOPS brief in particular is repetition and frequent exposure.
4. Learn to Fly a Pattern
The biggest thing I saw students struggle with in Contacts was the traffic pattern. It seems like a lot when you haven’t had any introduction to flying the plane but if I could go back the biggest change I would have made is I would have spent a couple hours a day learning how to fly a perfect traffic pattern.
Break out the Contact FTI and look up what it’s supposed to look like (really similar to NIFE) and what the airspeeds are for each part of the pattern as well as for each configuration. The power settings in the FTI are recommendations but are usually really close.
Once you have this figured out, definitely add winds and some gusts. The more challenging you can make it, the better you’ll be in the plane when you’re slamming against the canopy and your airspeed is jumping 10 knots due to the crazy gusting crosswinds.
The last step is to add comms and, if you’re really feeling good, learn how to fly a PEL from the pattern. This is all definitely doable prior to starting Primary and you’ll be so good in the plane once FAM1 comes.
5. NATOPS Brief
This one’s pretty simple, just memorize the behemoth that is the NATOPS brief. Yes, there are some differences between squadrons but those differences can easily be ironed out later and is certainly not an excuse to not learn it at all if you have the time.
The best method I found to getting this done was the “first letter” technique. I’m pretty sure there’s a version of this method done for almost every squadron out there so just check the gouge folders but it looks something like this:
Bonus: An Entire Contact Profile
This would be: taking off and course rules outbound to the working area, potentially doing the high work (not always useful in the sim), flying to a field for low work (PEL on the way in, PELP once in the pattern), and course rules home. This will be every flight in Contacts. If you can get to this point before even starting ground school…. You’re going to be well ahead of your peers.
That’s all I’ve got for now, if you have any questions feel free to drop me a line. The next post will likely be a bit more info specifically on Contacts and the key points for that phase.