All astronauts must learn how to fly a T-38 jet. Since Mutta scored the lowest on the written exam about the T-38, Mutta is assigned to flight instructor Deneil Young, who is ranked least popular among the flight instructors and has a unique way of flying and teaching.
Mutta asks Deneil about the G-suit (worn over the pants)
Deneil is ready to take Mutta for a ride in his customized T-38 jet. As the jet accelerates down the runway, Mutta starts feeling uneasy. Before the flight, Mutta wondered why Deneil had them both wear G-suits for his first flight. You typically only need to wear a G-suit if you plan on exceeding 4 G-forces. Mutta added that none of the other ASCANs had to wear G-suits for their first flight. Deneil replies simply by saying that only a handful of astronauts get to wear a G-suit, and Hibito was one of them. Deneil and Mutta did one last check of the jet before taking off. Even though the maintenance crew helps keep the jet up to snuff, ultimately it is the pilot's responsibility to check everything each time before flying.
One more time! - Hibito
After getting off the ground, Deneil wastes no time and goes straight into aerobatics doing rapid spirals and leaving a smoke trail. Hibito happens to be running laps on the ground nearby, and sees the T-38 in the sky. Judging by the flight style, Hibito immediately concludes that it's Deneil flying the T-38 and he must be pushing around 6.5 Gs. Mutta feels a little sick after the flight and throws up. Deneil jokes that everyone throws up on their first flight with him and adds "put that down in the notebook in your head." Interestingly, after Hibito's first flight with Deneil, Hibito threw up but then asked Deneil to go up again. After hearing this, Mutta seems motivated to go again saying "It's a piece of cake."
Sharon writes a letter to Mutta, asking how his flight training is going. A few lessons later, Mutta is simulating flying completely blind (the windows are blocked), like when flying through clouds. He becomes so focused on the speed he almost completely forgets about watching his altitude. Mutta is about to hit the water until Deneil reminds him to focus on the monitors in front of him. Deneil points out that Mutta should see 2 jets flying in front of them, and instructs Mutta to fly ahead and pass between them. Mutta says no way. Deneil laughs saying he knows how hard it can be to trust your life to monitors, but in this case it is more dangerous to go with your instincts over the information on the monitors. Mutta is unable to pass the jets and instead pulls back. Deneil is a little disappointed that Mutta didn't trust the machine more, saying it's kind of like trusting an elevator.
Deneil talks about his father and grandfather
They break for lunch and Mutta briefly looks at the letter he got from Sharon. Even though e-mail would have been faster, and given Sharon's disease, Sharon still decided to hand-write the letter. Talking over lunch, Mutta finally asks Deneil why he uses a wheel chair and cane if he can walk around fine. Mutta is thinking about how Sharon will need to be in a wheelchair one day due to her disease, so it seems like Deneil is just fooling around.
Mutta thinks about Sharon and her disease
Deneil asks if Mutta believes in genes. Deneil explains that both his father and grandfather were about his size, loved hot dogs and space and rockets. Also toward the end of their lives, they both had leg problems. Deneil plans to train with the wheelchair and cane ahead of time. After several flight lessons, the ASCANs are enjoying their time with the T-38 jets. In Sharon's letter, Sharon explained that she was trying to train herself with handwriting to help handle the symptoms of ALS. Mutta wondered how many hours Sharon spent writing the letter. In their next flight lesson, Mutta asks what Deneil might do if he were struck with an incurable disease or such and his legs stopped working all together. To which Deneil responds, there are just some things that cannot be prevented in life. "All we can do is live until the day we die, control what we can, and fly free."
Points of Interest
- Deneil explains that wearing a G-suit helps prevent blood from going straight from the head to the feet when pilots experience high G forces.
- Mutta jokes just before take off that he should have asked Amanti to read his fortune.
- Deneil named his customized T-38 "Max".
- Sharon suffers from ALS a rare motor neuron disease, where the neurons slowly stop being able to send signals to muscles. Eventually resulting in the inability to move any muscles without assistance, eventually including the lungs resulting in death.
- Deneil explains that the T-38 jet in the hangar with a hole in it was caused by him. He was flying in the clouds with very poor visibility and hit an incoming bird.
- The "Two Notebooks" according to Deneil refer to the notebook in your heart and the notebook in your head.