National Flight Academy by Kevin McAndrew
National Flight Academy
From the minute we left the plane I felt at home in Pensacola. The staff were waiting for us at the airport and I knew that I was going to have a good time there. As we walked outside the weather felt very alien to us, the hot humid air was as if we were right beside a fire. We soon found though that the National Flight Academy was indeed air conditioned.
When we reached the National Flight Academy we realised that it was much bigger than we had originally thought it would be. The National Naval Aviation Museum was housed beside it and was an amazing sight to see. The first thing we did when we went inside was get our badges and we were shown to our rooms. The rooms were plain and empty but we soon started to fill it with our clothes and belongings in a couple of minutes. We began to make our beds and instead of feeling a hard bunk bed instead we felt a nice soft bed. We then went to the mess deck to get an experience of American Pizza. Lastly we explored the Ambition CVT-11 for a while longer until it was lights out. I had a good night’s sleep after travelling almost 24 hours.
The next morning we woke up refreshed and scurried down to the mess deck. We had lovely food getting us ready for the day’s big adventure. We hopped in the vans and were driven across Pensacola and brought to the BEACH! At the beach the sand was bone white and as hot as a stove. There luckily was a pool beside it where we could cool down though. As we entered the sea water we went out to where the water was about chest level. We looked down into the water and amazingly see the bottom (unlike Ireland!) We saw lots of different things including hermit crabs and sand dollars. I thought I had no sunburn but when we got back it turned out that I had been mistaken, from my elbows to the top of my back I was badly sunburnt. But when we went to sleep I was not disturbed by it that much. It was our day to write on the blog and we didn’t find it too hard to do since we had such an exciting day. When we got back we met the first people apart from ourselves to come aboard Ambition; Trenton and Michael.
On Sunday was when everyone arrived. Ninety four others piled on board Ambition with the ship able to hold everyone easily. We met people that came from all around America to come and see the Ambition. At 1400 everyone reported to the mess deck where the Captain gave a speech and us our Chiefs. I was part of Wolfpack so we had Chief King. He told us a little about himself and then we went straight up to the ready room. When we reached the ready room we had a small bit of free time so we all got our call-signs; Giggles, Sparkey, Atom, Chatterbox, Google, Mickey D’s, Theory, Smiles, Fountain, Wada boy, Einstein and mine; Tech. Some of the callsigns changed like Google to Burner after burning all of her fuel because of the afterburner, Chatterbox to Psycho after all the murderous stories she told and Wada Boy to Masseuse because he randomly started massaging the table.
On Monday we were well into the program and we started on proper missions working with other Squadrons in our Cag such as Chargers and Lancers. We saw the museum and saw many interesting things especially the iMax theatre and we got to see a brilliant movie called the Magic of Flight. Just after we went out of the museum I realised that my card was missing so we went all the way back searching for my card until we realised that it wasn’t there. Later on we found it in the ready room which was strange because we hadn’t been there all morning.
On Wednesday we went out to see the Blue Angels practice and they put on a great show. I was hoping that we’d meet them after their performance but unfortunately we did not!*sobs* When we went back in we planned out formation flying and said, sure this is simple after seeing the Chargers doing it though our hopes were fizzled out. After the Chargers we stepped up and we took a go at it. A few planes got lost as we approached Destin airport and lined up to the runway. Eventually we had to leave after waiting too long so 3 of our six planes including us went for it performing the move perfectly until we were told that we were out of time.
On Thursday we went to visit the Swimming school where they taught people to save others in danger. They explained everything and showed us all of the facility. When we got back we found out that there was a great disaster; the Gulf Sunset collided with the Tropicale cruise ship. Ambition was on alert and we took to our stations. We had to deliver pumps and drop W.A.S.P.s to the collision site to put out the fires and the water. We took recon and figured out that the Gulf Sunset was from the Bahamas. The other thing we found was that the chemicals that were in the water were highly dangerous. The Gulf Sunset later blew to pieces and the cruise ship went down but everyone was saved in the end.
On Friday we had graduation and Ruadhrí made a great speech. Everyone watched as we all received our wings. After the graduation the Admiral gave us a three star admiral challenge coin. We were delighted to graduate and celebrated by going to the mall. I got a few souvenirs for my family.
Afterwards we came back to Ireland delighted to see our families again but we’ll never leave the knowledge we learnt behind and we’ll never leave the friends we made behind!