Soaring With Sagar - Never Waste a BFR

By Sagar Pathak

Sagar with instructor Justin Phillipson. (Courtesy of Sagar Pathak)Hi, my name is Sagar and it’s been one year, three months and nine days since my last flight as Pilot in Command. I feel like an addict craving his next fix. But while I could see the plane on the ramp, I knew that I couldn’t just jump in and leap again towards the sky. One little thing stood between me and my joy. A Biennial Flight Review, the mandatory flight and ground instruction with a certified flight instructor that is required every two years. And just my luck, I didn’t have mine. FAA 1, Sagar 0.

As with most newly minted pilots, there is a drop off in flight hours after we get our ticket. Sure, we may say that we are going up every weekend to chase that elusive hamburger or take our friends out for a weekend getaway to a far and exotic destination, but often those ideas just fade away. I fell into that trap and, over time, my flying slid to once every 90 days to keep up my San Carlos Flying Club was able to create a personalized program for Sagar, combining tailwheel instrkuction with his Biennial Flight Review. (Courtesy of Sagar Pathak)currency. Eventually even that lapsed leaving my headset to sit alone in my flight bag.

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Soaring With Sagar: Of Men and Models

By Sagar Pathak

Sagar Pathak with the TU-U2S that the model was designed after. (Sagar Pathak)Ever since I was little, my parents had always bought me toy airplanes as gifts.  While some kids love to collect baseball cards or matchbox cars, model airplanes (and aviation in general) have always been my passion for as long as I can remember. Some of my favorite toys growing up were my Ertl Force One F-14 Tomcat, Micro Machines Airport play sets, and any dozen of my Dyna-Flites metal jets.  They looked more like blobs of metal than actual airplanes but details really didn’t matter much back then.  As long as that plane had rolling wheels and wings, I supplied all the thrust, engine noises, and imagination necessary to make those planes come alive in my living room.

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Soaring With Sagar - October 2011

Air Mobility Rodeo 2011

Story and Photos by Sagar Pathak

Every two years, the best of the best from across the Air Mobility Command get together at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Wash., in an undisputed, winner-take-all competition that pits more than 50 aircraft and 2,500 airmen from across the world in a skills competition to crown the best of the best. This year, I had the chance to observe the March ARB Team as they participate in the Air Mobility Rodeo 2011.

First held in 1945, the AMC Rodeo is a weeklong competition that has featured more than 2,500 competitors from across the globe. More than 50 aircraft (C-17, C-5, C-130, KC-10, KC-135, T-1, C-37, C-32, etc.) fill the ramp at McChord Field and compete in contests such as air-to-air refueling, on/off loading cargo, aero-medical evacuations, low-level flying and air drops.

As we took off from March ARB, our team was already in the first event of the competition and would be judged on our landing. We had to land at McChord Field at exactly 10:05 a.m. and within 3,000 feet of the end of the runway. And delay in flight or lack of accuracy on the landing would cause our team to lose points. After the few-hour flight to McChord, the team landed one second early and right on the mark. It was a great start to the competition.

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Soaring With Sagar - July 2011

Real World Refueling

By Sagar Pathak

Boom Operator SrA Shawn Racchini peers through a hydraulic fluid soaked window and still manages to fly the boom to the awaiting F-16. (Sagar Pathak)Laying on my belly in the back of the KC-135 from March ARB at 20,000 feet, I stared out into an ominous grey cloud. I couldn’t see the ground nor had any sense of depth or movement even though we were going 315 knots. It was as though we were in a grey void hanging in the sky. And to compound my fear, there was a thin coating of hydraulic fluid all over the boom’s window. It was like looking through a window coated in Vaseline. Knowing that there was going to be an F-16 just 10 feet away from us, both of us bouncing around due to turbulence from the clouds, and the boom operator not clearly being able to see the plane was less then comforting. 

But out there somewhere in the void was eight F-16s from Luke AFB that needed fuel to complete their training. And one way or another, SRA Shawn Racchini, boom operator for the 912th Air Refueling Squadron, was The crew from the 912th Air Refueling Squad conduct a pre-flight briefing before take off. (Sagar Pathak) going to get them that fuel. With nearly five years under his belt as a boom operator, SRA Racchini has been deployed oversees five times and knows how to get the job done. 

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Soaring With Sagar - June 2011

Go for Launch!

By Sagar Pathak

(Sagar Pathak)With half open eyes, and in a semi-awake state of mind, I spotted the now familiar, 52-story Vertical Assembly building at the Kennedy Space Center. It was three a.m. eastern time, and I had just flown in the day before. My body was wondering why I was just waking up when normally I would be falling asleep at this time. It was confused and for a fleeting second so was I. But then I saw the innocuous sign on the side of the road. “Days till Count Down: 0.” And a small smile crept across my face. This was finally the day I would get to witness history and create some of my very own. 

Seventeen days prior, a small, but important group of components in the Aft Load Control Assembly No. 2 (ALCA-2) caused the cancellation of the STS-134 mission launch four hours prior to launch, disappointing not only me, but hundreds of thousands of spectators and especially six eager astronauts strapped into the worlds largest bottle rocket. But as I heard someone at NASA say, “we may not do it fast, but we do it safely.” Knowing that a faulty ALCA would put the six astronauts in possible danger should have been an easy decision to ward off the disappointment of traveling half way across the country and spending hundreds of dollars on airfare, rental car, and hotel nights. But along with those hundreds of thousands of others, I knew that their safety was more important then witnessing one of man’s greatest accomplishments…a space shuttle launch. So I put my disappointment aside and re-booked my tickets to come back again for the next launch attempt. 

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