When we moved to Pensacola for Rob to start flight school, I had no idea what to expect. I was thrilled to live at the beach but didn't know how long we would be here or what Rob's schedule would look like. We moved to Pensacola in June and I did not take a teaching job because I "did not know if I would be here long enough to finish out the school year". Which is true, I had no way of knowing that we would be in Pensacola for as long as we were. Hindsight is 20:20! If you have been wondering what the last year looked like while Rob was in flight school, here is a recap!
Initially, we had almost three full months of paid vacation. Rob checked into his unit but everything was backed up so other than the occasional funeral duty and check in with his unit, most of his time was free. I look back on this time so fondly! We lived less than a mile from the beach and spent all of our time together relaxing on the beach, checking out new restaurants, and exploring our new home. It was perfect and exactly the together time we needed after TBS. We were able to travel to two weddings and both of our families came to visit. Anytime we felt antsy to get started, we reminded ourselves how blessed we were to have this time together. Deployments are inevitable in this lifestyle so we tried to take advantage of every minute of this downtime!
In August, Rob started IFS, Initial Flight Screening at Jack Edwards Airport in Alabama. This school is about a month long and held off base at an airport close to your house. We lived in Perdido Key at the time which is why the closest airport ended up being right over the state line in Alabama! It is pretty much the military paying a civilian school to teach you to get your private pilot's license to make sure you can handle the basics before they actually pay real money to train you to be a military pilot. Rob flew in a Cessna and studied or flew everyday. It was the first time he had ever flown a plane so it was super exciting for him and nice for me because his schedule was still not too intense! IFS ends with a solo flight and the cutting of his shirt tails, which I was able to go watch. It was definitely exciting!
Soon after finishing IFS, Rob started API, Aviation Preflight Indoctrination, at NAS Pensacola. This school is six weeks long with four weeks in the classroom and two weeks of survival and swim training. The classroom portion is intense. Rob would go to class in the morning, come home in the afternoon, and then study until he went to bed. It was a lot of information and a lot of work. API was the most intense portion in my opinion of all of flight school so far. I have never seen Rob study as much as he did during API! Even though he was studying every waking minute, he was still home and able to eat dinner with me and sleep at home every night. We were still able to go to the beach on the weekends and live a "normal" life. TBS makes you grateful for things like this! At the end of API, the students earn the right to wear their flight suits. They get to wear their flight suits for the first time on "Flight Suit Friday" and then have a giant party at the Officers Club on base to celebrate. It was such a fun night and another special tradition in the aviation community.
Rob finished API right before the holidays and had a bit of a wait time before starting Primary. Rob was assigned to complete Primary at NAS Whiting Field in Milton, FL. (Primary is held at Whiting Field or in Corpus Christi, TX) Whiting Field was about an hour and a half drive from our place in Perdido Key. There was no way this was feasible for Rob, especially for 5am briefs, so we made the move. Most people move to Milton but we wanted to stay closer to downtown, the beach, and civilization so we decided to move to the North side of Pensacola. The downside of the situation is Rob did not rate a PCS since Whiting and NAS Pensacola are located too close together, so the move expenses were out of our pockets. Even though it was a bit of a hassle, living in Peridido Key for the first six months was totally worth it and we both agreed that we would make the same housing decision again!
Rob classed up in Primary at the end of January was part of the VT-3 Red Knights. He started out with ground school, knight school (classroom/studying portions), and lots of waiting around. He flew in the simulator and did the practice simulator at home a lot before flying his first real flight in March. It seemed like Primary would last forever! Some weeks he would get scheduled almost every day and some weeks he wouldn't go in to work at all. The schedule was posted around 5:30 every night for the next day so we quickly learned to live by that schedule. It was hard to plan anything in advance but we still were able to spend a lot of time together and take a few spontaneous getaways (within 300 miles of course!) The schedule was really unpredictable and things were always changing due to weather/maintenance/etc. Once I let go of the expectation to plan anything based around Rob's schedule, the schedule just became a normal part of life!
Once Rob flew his first solo flight in June, it seemed like things really started picking up. The first phase of Primary (Contacts) took longer to complete than the whole rest of the syllabus. VT-3 took the planes and the students to Michigan for two weeks and this knocked out a ton of flights for Rob. He came home almost completely finished with Primary. Selections are scheduled for Thursdays and the students have to be finished with all events by Tuesday in order to select that week. Rob selected at the end of August and had a little over two weeks before he had to report to Meridian for intermediate/advanced jet training. Supposedly intermediate and advanced should take around a year so I guess I will have to save that recap for Flight School 2.0 next year once he finishes!