Today was our last full day in America! Most importantly it was our graduation. We woke up at 6:30 for the last time for a while! Well after our last breakfast with our squadrons it was time say good-bye.
Of course the Irish did this uniquely by performing our own performance of River Dance! Luckily the Americansdid not know what the real River Dance performance is, so they were not let down by our atrocious dancing skills!
With that, it was time to head on over to our first American Graduation! It was so exciting!
With all our certificates and our wings it was time to say our final goodbyes and return to an all Irish squadron. After a beautiful lunch out in a local restaurant we came back to Ambition and got ready to go to the beach!
Well after 3 hours of non stop swimming, body boarding and fun it was time to head home. We may have been upset, other than the fact that we had more shopping to attend to!
After another 2 hours of going through Hollister, Aeropostale, and many other shops picking up last minute presents for family members (and for ourselves!) we went for more food!
After 2 hours of going through memories from the week it was time to go to bed. The girls are now are trying to fit all their clothes in their suitcases! We will let everyone known if this is possible when we touch down in Ireland on Sunday!
This morning was our last full day on Ambition and what an exciting one it was too! We woke up to blue skies and a shining sun… just kidding it was actually stormy and raining but we didn’t let that put us off (after all we do come from the land of rain!) We had a busy schedule planned out for the day and our first stop was in the Mess Deck for breakfast. When we arrived we were thrilled and delighted to see some Blue Angel pilots and crew sitting at our squadron tables. After sharing our morning meal with us the Blue Angels then talked to us about their different jobs, being in the U.S. Navy and pursuing dreams. It was a truly inspiring speech and we’re all in awe of what they do!
After breakfast all twelve of the Irish Ambassadors plus some American students headed up to the Ready Room to be interviewed. Everybody else on Ambition took a look around the Naval Aviation Museum until about 12:00. While we were waiting to be interviewed we went over our next mission.
The day before we had been instructed to plan out a cross country route anywhere within a 500nm radius of Ambition. Everybody had it all planned out until we got to the Ready Room where the Irish Ambassadors decided that it yould be absolutely amazing if we could fly to Ireland! After getting the all clear from OPSO O’ Rear we started planning it all out with some help from other Chiefs.
By lunchtime we were all psyched for our exciting mission, until we were hit with devastating news. A cruise liner named Tropicana had crashed into an oil tanker on the Gulf of Mexico and 2317 peoples’ lives were in danger. We ran to our work stations and immediately began planning our rescue mission. There were people to save, pumps to deliver, fires to put out, chemicals to be neutralised and injuries to be treated so we were on the go all day long. I enjoyed every minute of the mission but the most rewarding part was when we were informed at 21:30 that every single person onboard the Tropicana had been rescued! It has been a really great experience here so far and I’m looking forward to tomorrows graduation!!
by Erin Shimizu
Today marked the AXPs 4th day aboard the USS Ambition. It was also our second last full day before graduation and was a very exciting and eventful day which was obviously to the AXP’s delight. Our day started as usual with the daily morning call at 0630, which some of us still haven’t gotten used to, and our breakfast on the Mess Deck with the other squadrons.
Following breakfast each squadron had squadron time where we talked with our chiefs and discussed some basics of skills of land survival. This subject was further discussed in detail when we went to the Land Survival Centre on the naval base in Pensacola. Here, Master Chief Curley explained to us about the various requirements we should adhere to in the misfortunate situation of finding ourselves deserted! He also showed us how to light fires in the wild and find water. It was so much more complex than I thought!!
After this trip to the Land Survival centre we returned to base on Ambition. Unfortunately the bus on the way home did not have air-conditioning! When we arrived back onboard the Ambition we crossed the gangway where we met Kate, Paddy and Maeve. We had a short “catch up” before we left again.
This time we went to a class on the importance of the weather to aviation. We had meteorologist John O’Hara brief us about this. We also predicted what tomorrows’s weather will be like. The team who got it right got to eat first at lunch so the pressure was on! After that we went to the JIC where we planned the Eglin fly-by mission with IO Wilson before lunch.
It was time for another off-shore trip after lunch, this time it was to the Blue Angel’s hangar on base. This was such an amazing experience. Here we met with all of the crew in the world renowned Blue Angel’s squadron. We met with everyone from the engineers to the administration team and even saw a few pilots!! At the end of the tour we got the chance to come face to face with the F-18 jets. It was amazing to see them all at work!
We resumed our usual positions after that on ambition, flying the Triads, planning missions and working in ATC. At first we were controlling the Argonauts in the JOC before we took the reigns ourselves in the triads!! This mission was one of our toughest missions to date. It involved flying in formation, and not just normally!! We did it in front of cameras! However in the end the Maces came out on top!
We got up from dinner and immediately headed for the JIC where we planned one of our last missions, a cross country flight to anywhere within 500 miles of Ambition! Our next task was to control and fly another mission, the Tampa air rally! This was a competition between all squadrons and we are currently awaiting results!!
It was then time for freetime!! AXPs could then play a game of air hockey or stay in their staterooms before lights out at 2300!!
Slán go fóill!
Eoin Corcoran (AKA Spud)
Today when we woke up we went to a golf club and had breakfast. We hadn’t really gotten used to the portions. The large in Ireland is the small in America!! It was hard to finish our pancakes but they were lovely. We then headed back to ‘Ambition’.
We got ready to go to the museum of naval aviation. We were amazed at how many planes there were. There was a Blue Angels simulator which was very good. After we went to have lunch in a restaurant at the museum. It was a very good experience.
Then we went back to our rooms to get our money. We had 20 minutes so we went into the games room for the first time. It has two tv’s in it. One for the Xbox and one for the Playstation. There’s also an air-hockey table. Then we went to the mall and spent 2 hours there.
Afterwards we got dinner in a seafood restaurant. We played volleyball while we were waiting for the food. It was great fun. We ended the night by returning to ‘Ambition’ and had an air-hockey tournament. Mark won!
-Killian McHugh + Domhnall Ó Braonáin
The Science Gallery in Dublin will today honour 3 teachers and 12 schoolchildren from County Galway who last year were crowned the first ever “Aviators of the Future” in The Galway Education Centre’s ground breaking new project in partnership with the National Flight Academy in Pensacola, Florida, USA.
Tonight the impressive group will meet Daraine Mulvihill from RTE’s The Science Squad at The Science Gallery where they will update her on their successful trip to the states last summer and their special six day residency on board the NFA’s simulated training aircraft carrier, Ambition. The team from Galway were the first ever international students to participate in this program.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s function, Bernard Kirk, Director of The Galway Education Centre said, “ We are delighted to be bringing these young Aviators of the future to the flagship centre for science and technology in this country! It is a wonderful opportunity for the students to meet with Daraine Mulvihill and it is so important for them to be recognised for this huge international achievement”.
Mr Kirk credits the innovation, dedication and international respect of teachers in Ireland, as playing a key role in the success of this project. Kate Murray, a principal of a small rural school in Clontuskert, County Galway spoke of her involvement; “For the pupils at Clontuskert National School to get an opportunity like this is life changing. This project is a classic example of how dreams can be brought to reality to the benefit of our young people in the STEAM subjects”.
The National Flight Academy is a subsidiary of The Naval Aviation Museum Foundation in the United States. The Galway Education Centre have for some time also been running programmes such as FIRST LEGO League and The CREST Awards here in Ireland in an effort to also recognise and reward excellence in these important STEAM subjects for Irish Students.
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!
“Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t.” – Peter Seeger. (Musician, songwriter)
Over the last week I have had the privilege to learn what that actually means and it is very true.
The National Flight Academy (NFA) is an amazing journey of learning from start to finish at such an accelerated rate. Every day there’s something new to learn and new skills to master. There’s never a dull moment, never a time to be bored, always a new mission to be planned and executed. So let me share with you some of the highlights and experiences I had as an Irish AXP (Ambition eXperimental Pilot) participating in NFA’s incredible program.
One of the things that will always stand out in my mind is definitely the welcome we received from everyone. After almost 24 hours of travel from Galway to Pensacola it was wonderful to see some of the staff from the NFA standing outside the arrival doors of Pensacola International Airport waving flags and holding a huge banner welcoming us. When we arrived at the NFA there was nothing but awe from the whole group at the sheer size but to top it all there was a sign that had proudly been changed to read “INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT ACADEMY”! The team had really pulled out all the stops and gone out of their way to make sure that we got a memorable arrival to Pensacola and they certainly succeeded!
Once we had settled into our quarters on board Ambition I quickly forgot about the outside world as we set sail and were immersed into life as it would be on an aircraft carrier. It was amazing how realistic it was, every detail carefully designed to perfection from the grey narrow corridors and the sleeping quarters down to the water under the gangway and the sounds of aircraft taking off and landing all day long. Everything was as imagined and better, exceeding all hopes and expectations.
We started to carry out missions pretty soon after we got underway. First we needed to learn how to plan our mission flight plans, how to use the radars and radios in the Joint Operations Centre and finally we needed to learn how to fly the X-12 Triad aircraft. The amount we learnt in that first day was incredible! We had progressed from knowing almost nothing to being able plan, control, take off, fly a mission and land back on an aircraft carrier. Multiply that amount of information in a half day, by a week’s worth of time and you start to realise the sheer volume of new information we learnt! We got through things that would take a few weeks or even months in school, in a matter of days or hours! But that was just the theoretical side of things. During that week we learnt some of the most important skills that we’ll ever learn and use in our lives: skills like teamwork, leadership, delegating, assigning and sharing work, clear and concise communications, quick and innovative thinking, initiative, networking and most importantly friendship.
Over the course of the week I had the opportunity to work and become friends with so many amazing, talented and intelligent people. Each person had his or her own story to tell, each person bringing something unique to the squadrons. I’m sure that my fellow AXPs from both sides of the Atlantic will also agree that the friendships that were formed are the thing that I’ll never forget and cherish the most out of this experience. In a world where networking is so important, spending time with probably over 120 new total strangers gave us a chance to build up connections with people we may never have met otherwise. With each new friendship formed, another potential opportunity arises, an opportunity that mightn’t or couldn’t be possible without the support and friendship of these people. I know that I’ll definitely stay in touch with every one of my new friends and see where that friendship might lead me. Who knows, it might be that I was talking to the future President of a nation, a future General or Admiral or possibly the next Bill Gates this week! Whatever the future holds for these people, the friendships that have just started will never be forgotten.
On the subject of friendships and great people, of all the impressive things on board, the people were the most amazing. Every squadron of 12 AXPs was assigned a chief or rather the other way around. These chiefs are the most incredible people ever. Every one of them was always in a good mood, always patient while we learnt and worked, always there to help us. They were all great fun and kept all our spirits up all week long. I admire what they do and I hope that someday I’ll return and spend time as a chief for another group of young aviators. I also need to say that it wasn’t only the chiefs that were on the excellent team. There was also the Vice Admiral, the Captains, the Master Chief, Admin staff, the Intelligence and Operations officers, the technicians, the nurses, the catering staff and so many others that were working incredibly hard behind the scenes to make this experience possible. All of the wonderful team really pulled out all of the stops to make the experience one to remember. From the welcome to the emotional farewell, their hospitality and kindness was really incomparable to anything I’ve experienced before and was greatly appreciated by all.
I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone we met (and also to those we didn’t) on this trip and to everyone who worked so hard to make this experience happen. Special thanks to VADM Hoewing, VADM Architzel, Kathy Denkler, Teresa Gurka, CAPT Chip, CAPT Miller, Master Chief Curley, all the Intelligence officers and all the Operations Officer, all the chiefs, and of course to Kate Murray, Paddy Clancy and Maeve Clancy for all of the work they put in to make the experience a reality for all the Irish AXPs. I know I’ll have left someone out but know that I thank those people equally; you know who you are yourself! It has been the experience of a lifetime.
Today we woke up at 8am and an announcement was made at 9am to say that we were having Krispy Kreme doughnuts for breakfast! It was delicious! After breakfast our new friend Brianna came over to say goodbye to us all. We played air hockey and ‘ninja’ with chief Chrissy all morning until we were told we had to leave to go to the airport.
We said goodbye to all of our new friends outside of the airport. Our flight to Atlanta took off at 14:30. We had a two hour layover there where we ate our lunch and our next flight to Dublin left at 18:00.
It was sad to say goodbye to all of our friends who have been so kind and helpful to us this past week. I hope that I can stay in touch with them and that I can meet them again some time.
I think I can safely say that our trip was a huge success. I enjoyed every minute of our journey and I really hope that I can go back to Pensacola some day.