"THE YEAR OF FIFTY-THREE WEEKS: EARNING THE AIR FORCE WINGS by James J. Hoogerwerf (This copy has been slightly modified from the original, written in 1968. It was never published.) For some the beginning goes back many years to a simple youthful desire to fly; for others it just seems to happen. But for most who go through the United States Air Force pilot training program, what at first seemed a distant unattainable goal, one day becomes a reality. Each year graduates of nine Air Training Command (ATC) Undergraduate pilot Training (UPT) bases pin on the pilot wings of the United States Air Force. The prize is not easily won; it is hard earned. Long hours are spent on the ground for each hour in the air. Flight time is valuable and cannot be squandered learning procedures, which are best, learned on the ground and applied in the air. The year-long program begins with students reporting to their assigned bases. They arrive from all states and many foreign countries. All are commissioned officers - some already having served on active duty; others are reporting for their first duty assignment. All have passed stringent mental and physical examinations designed to test their aptitude and fitness for flying the nation's most advanced aircraft. In this way eight UPT classes are formed every year at each of the ATC bases. Classes usually number from 55- 65 students and are designated according to the Department of Defense fiscal year in which they are formed. For example, fiscal year 1968 had eight classes ranging from 68-A to class 68-H. Orientation and in-processing is scheduled for the first week. The class is divided in two sections and organized with a class commander, section leader and flight commanders. Each student is assigned an area of responsibility such as athletics, class book, photographer, etc. Briefings are given by training officers to explain the program for the coming year. Books, helmets, flight clothing and other equipment are issued. A "beer call" is held at the Officers Club to allow everyone to become acquainted. By the end of the week the class is functioning as a unit and is ready to start the serious business of flying. The early mornings and long days begin. The "weenies ", as they are called by advanced students, begin flying in the T-41 (civilian Cessna 172) "silver rocket". Each student receives either 18 or 30 hours flying time depending on whether he has completed the Flight Instruction Program through the Reserve Officers Training Program at his college. Flight instruction is given by civilian contractors in Air Force aircraft usually at a civilian airport near the parent base. Aircraft are flown all day. One section of the class flies in the morning; the other in the afternoon. Each week the sections alternate. When not flying students are attending classes or receiving physical training. This pattern is followed for the entire year. Requirements for the T-41 phase include maneuvers similar to those given for a private pilot license. But the emphasis is on familiarization with flying to determine student aptitude. The Air Force figures it costs less this way than to use more costly jet aircraft. T-41 instruction lasts for approximately six weeks. Then itís on to the T-37 primary jet trainer. Commonly referred to as the 6000 pound dog whistle (in reference to the high pitched noise its two engines make), ear protectors are required to be worn at all times around these aircraft. The T-37 is ideally suited for its mission. Offering side by side seating, it allows close supervision of the student by the instructor. Flying the T-37 is much like flying the heavier and faster jets a pilot may later be assigned to fly. Students receive 90 hours of instruction in the T-37. With about l5 hours behind him, a student solos. This earns him an honorable dunking in the solo pool; a ritual administered gleefully by fellow classmates! No longer a "weenie", the fledgling pilot may now wear the distinctive colored scarf of his class. Each trainee flies solo for an additional l5 hours in the T-37. During this time he practices various maneuvers taught during dual flights. These include slow flight, split "S", aileron rolls, and, later, immelmans, loops, cuban eights and others. At various times the student stays in the airport pattern for practice accuracy landings or "stages" as they are called. Landings are graded by an instructor in the RSU (runway supervisory unit) or "mobile". On all landings the aircraft must be landed within the first 1000' of runway. If this is not possible the student should go-around. If he fails to initiate his own go-around, he will be told to by "mobile." After soloing, instrument training begins. Training missions are flown in both the aircraft and the Link simulator. Instruction is given for basic instrument procedures followed by familiarization with radio, approach and advanced instrument procedures. Training in all phases of the program is very thorough. To insure top standards check-rides are given periodically. These graded evaluations determine the student's proficiency. Grades determine a studentís class standing which becomes important in determining choice of assignment upon graduation. Competition becomes keen for the top positions. At any time, should a student perform badly or demonstrate unsafe judgment either on a regular flight or a check-ride, he gets "pinked". He receives a red "U" or unsatisfactory for that mission and must re-accomplish the flight. If successive flights are still unsatisfactory, elimination can result. A board will be convened to review the student's record and allow him to present any extenuating circumstances. Concurrently with flying, academics and physical training keep students busy. Courses are given on such subjects as airmanship, aviation physiology, flight instrumentation, T-37 and T-38 systems, IFR and VFR navigation and flight rules, and other courses necessary to complete a pilot's education. A most interesting course, aviation physiology teaches the effects of high altitude and speed on the human body. Necessary equipment for survival under such extreme conditions is explained. Oxygen equipment is used in a high altitude pressure chamber "flight". Removing his mask, each student experiences the effects of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) so that he can recognize the symptoms should he ever experience them later in his flying career. A rapid decompression simulates a loss of pressurization. The intention is to familiarize pilots with possible malfunctions of their life support systems at high altitudes and to train them to initiate the proper responses. Other elements of a pilot's survival are the parachute and the ejection seat. Training teaches pilots how to use these sophisticated tools. A ride in the "boom bucket" demonstrates the effect of ejecting by propelling a seat (with the student strapped in it) vertically up a rail to simulate an actual ejection from an aircraft. Once safely out of the aircraft a pilot must rely on his parachute to get him safely to the ground. Practical parachute experience is gained by parasailing. Using a special parachute that develops lift with forward motion, students are towed aloft attached to a truck by a 900' foot line. When the truck stops the parasail ceases to develop lift. Acting like a regular parachute, the parasail gently lowers the student to the ground. This is how parachuting control and landing techniques are learned. Physical training is an integral part of flight school. Scheduled throughout the program, PE includes conditioning, team sports, social sports and combative measures. Half way through the year a class has progressed through the T-41 and T-37 phases of the program. Now it is time to check out in the T-38 "Talon", a high performance supersonic training aircraft. By this time a student has mastered the basic principals of flight. Flying the T-38 refines newly learned skills.120 hours are flown in the T-38. Initially students fly instrument rides in the aircraft and link "flights" in the simulator. With successful completion of a mid-phase instrument check-ride, a student pilot solos. Then follow a contact check-ride, two ship formation, another check-ride, more instrument flying, four-ship formation, night check out, navigation, and more check-rides. All this takes six months to complete; when it is over all that remains is that long awaited graduation! The unattainable goal of year ago becomes a reality when a mother, wife, or girlfriend pins on the wings of the UNITED STATES AIR FORCE!
"Don't know why, but Webb came into my mind tonight, so I hit the net, and guess what? Found this WebSite. Awesome!!! I arrived at Webb in Sep 54, directly out of Basice train ing at Samson AB, New York. I remember it snowed in August in New York, and then by trin to Big Spring and the HEAT!!! I was enlisted and was assigned first to the 3560th Student Training Sq., and then to 3560th Wing Hqs Sq. Worked in officer's records section, and was in charge of maintaining student officers and aviation cadet records until graduation and commissioning and then prepared Special Orders transferring them to next assignment., Left the base for ATC Hqs at Randolph AFB, San Antonio in late 1957. Remember arriving at Webb in the 5th year of a 7 year drought. When it broke, started raining, and we didn't get a T-bird off the ground for over 2 months. Webb is known to had flying weather over 300 days a year. Dust storms, extreme HEAT and a Sunday afternoon snow storm while at Base Theater. We came out from the show, and you could tell who was from the South and who was from the North. We pulled a lot of the southern boys out of the ditch not being familiar with snow driving. Still, it was my most enjoyable time in the Air Force. I've been retired several years, but would cetainly love to make the 2009 meeting. Greaqt site, read all thru 36 pages of comments, and enjoyed them all. "
"I was in thw Webb 67E UPT class to begin with but I broke my wrist and got set back to the 67G class. I have many great memories of the batmen class. As the social officer I helped establish the Batman and Robin comedy team that was so successful. Who can ever forget their great routines - especially their bat jokes."
"I am the corresponding secretary for UPT Classes 52-F, 52-G and 52-H. If you read this website page and are not on our mailing list, please contact me or you can go to our web site www.52-g-52hpilots.org for more informaton. Many of these classes graduated from Webb. "
"I was a member of UPT Class 76-04, following graduation I flew KC-135's out of Loring AFB, I have been flying for Southwest Airlines for the past 27 years, based out of Dallas. I have great memories of Webb. Every time I fly overhead BGS on my way to Midland they all come back. "
"I've enjoyed reading all the comments. My father worked a civil service job at Webb Air force Base during the 1960s. We lived in Big Spring for 9 years. I met many terrific "Air Force Brats" and spent a lot of time on base. Back then, WAFB had a teen club, movie theatre and other interests for young people. It was the best place to hang out in Big Spring, and the base always welcomed non-military people warmly. I remember the fun dances held at the teen center. I have such fond memories of the base! The base kids, far from maladjusted, were resilient. They all seemed to have a sense of who they were, and were self confident. I admired that about them.
One particular friend, who I have been searching for many years was Fran Hall. Her step-father was enlisted there. His name was John Stevens. If anyone knows of the whereabouts of this family, please write me at my email address. I would be ecstatic to find this old friend. I am thankful for having been a part of the base and have very fond memories of it."
"I was a member of pilot training class 68A at Webb AFB, July 66-July 67. It was one of the best years of my life and I have many fond memories of the base and the city of Big Spring. Left town with a few more things than I had when I arrived including silver pilot wings and a baby daughter born in the base hospital in June 67."
"John D. Musick was a graduate of class 43-13 of the Big Spring Army Air Forces Bombardier School. He and our mother, Lillian, of Nordheim, Texas, married and then made their first home in Big Spring, at one time in the Settles Hotel downtown. Dad went on to teach bombardiering at Big Spring and Midland, Texas, eventually joining SAC and becoming a launch commander with the missle wing attached to Lowry AFB, Denver, CO, where he retired in 1964.
Thanks to Ms. Bias and her wonderful staff at Hangar 25 for our recent tour of the museum. It is a tremendous reminder of the dedication and service of the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. "
"I WAS STATIONED AT WEBB FROM 1959 TO OCT. 1960,I WORKED IN THAT HANGAR ALMOST EVERY DAY. MY WIFE BOTH FROM PA. GOT MARRIED IN BIG SPRING IN THE OLD COURTHOUSE,STILL MARRIED AFTER 48 YEARS,REALLY ENJOYED MY TOUR THERE."
From: DALE DODSON
City: PEORIA,AZ. Country: USA
I was in the AF from 1955 to 1964, and stationed at Webb from Jan 59 to June 63, witih two TDYs to Tyndall AFB, FL. I was a radar tech on the F-86L at first, then they converted to the F-102, and I cross-trained to that aircraft radar system. Member of the 331st FIS. I took dozens of photos all over the base, indoors and outside shots as well. Hoping this site will eventually have capacity to display everyone's photos. I now belong to the Air Force Association and am still in touch with 5 guys from the radar shop at Webb.
M. G. "Bud" Norris