Well, it HAS been awhile hasn’t it, dear friends. My initial excitement at having the Internet in my can was tempered by my roommate’s transition to nights, which means we’re up and down at different times and thus my banging on the keyboard is generally not appreciated. No matter, his swing is almost over (though mine is about to begin, in reverse), but eventually we’ll even out and I can start posting again in a normal fashion.
Anyway, I’ve been doing the flying thing every few days, racking up the hours, moving ass and trash around the AO. I did my first flight up north on this deployment, and was struck by how much more light there is along the river. Haditha and its environs, which were lit last time, looks like they’ve had a few more power lines hooked up; and now towns up the river, like Rawa and Anah, are no longer black holes in the middle of the blacker hole of the desert. It looks like the basics of civilization are creeping their way out into the provinces.
About a week later (a couple of days ago, actually) I had a less than pleasant experience flying out west where there are no friendly lights to show the way. We were heading out to Korean Village, a FOB way the hell out by the Syrian/Jordanian borders (it’s not quite the middle of nowhere; you have to get to the middle of nowhere, go about sixty miles past it, and then you’ll be at KV), which we hadn’t visited at night in, oh, years (for good reason). Horizontal visibility was good, and we could see al Asad from over thirty miles away and watch cars and trucks streaming along the highway for quite a distance. However, there are a lot of dry lake beds between home base and KV, and they have a tendency to spew dust into the air with the slightest breeze. This dust creates a haze that doesn’t necessarily restrict visibility, but diffuses light and terrain detail in the distance so that there’s no longer a horizon to look at. Out west, this is less than ideal; the terrain there is already pretty much devoid of detail, and with no horizon the only way to reference the position and attitude of your aircraft is through your instruments. This means you have to devote half your time to looking at the other aircraft to not run into it, and half looking inside to make sure you’re still right-side up. Well, as I was looking at dash one to keep my distance, I started to get the feeling that they were in a right turn into us. I checked my instruments and they told me we were both straight and level. Well, with no terrain detail, no horizon, and the highway lights as my only reference on the ground, I swore they were in a right turn. I started creeping in a little left stick to maintain position through the turn, but it wasn’t keeping me where I should have been if they were actually coming right. I did this a couple more times and we still weren’t changing position as I expected. I kept looking in and out at my instruments, which told me we were still straight and level. Didn’t feel that way; as far as I was concerned, lead was in a constant right-hand turn compared to the highway and still turning. There’s really only one explanation when the plane is telling you one thing and your senses are telling you another: vertigo. The instruments were right, and my brain was all jacked up. I passed the controls to the other pilot and stared intently inside at the gauges to get my head back on straight. After a few minutes I was fine, up was up and down was down again, and I took the controls back and we landed at KV without further incident. I could see why we generally don’t fly west at night, however; here we were, under just about the best weather conditions we can get in that direction, and I still managed to get vertigo for the first time. This is why we always discuss vertigo in the brief before we go fly at night: because it can happen at any time, to any pilot, regardless of experience. A good example of how simply following your pre-briefed procedures can help save the day (metaphorically speaking: this wasn’t a life-or-death situation. Just highly uncomfortable).
Well, I think I’m gonna go find a couch and take a little nap through the dust storm currently enveloping our base since I’m fairly certain my fatigue has caused multiple spelling and grammatical errors in this post that my glazed eyes can’t see. Then maybe I’ll do a little run, read a little Michael Yon, lift a little weight, try and gain some traction in my campaign as the Moors in Medieval II, or just sit in the mail room for seven hours waiting, hoping, praying for my wife’s latest package to come, which contains the latest episodes of BSG. Bree, take note: when it comes to BSG, shipping fees are not a factor.