It's the same facility, but new tools are on hand for training at Naval Air Station Meridian. New T-45 Goshawk jets are being phased into use here to replace the aging T-2C Buckeye aircraft. The first student flight sessions were held Friday morning, and the crews were pleased with the results.
"It's very fast, but it's fun to fly. A lot of things happen much more quickly," said Ensign Michael Piacentino. Training is good here, so I thought I was well-prepared."
"Yeah, it's more helpful. You're learning more. It just gives you a picture of exactly where you are, if you didn't mess anything up," said 2nd Lt. Nicholas Bezanson. "It's a lot easier than reading a needle."
The primary difference in the two planes is the instrumentation of the cockpit. Instead of needles and dials, the new Goshawk aircraft boasts a more modern digital interface, more like what the students may one day use in combat.
"It's really exceptional that now we are the only squadron in the Navy that can boast the fact that we are flying the newest airplane the Navy has," said Cmdr. Charles Aley. "And the oldest airplane the Navy has. Both perform very well, but the T-45 brings us up into the 21st century."
These planes will serve a primary training function, giving the students good base in the fundamentals before they move on to more advanced.
"The airplanes are coming in and they're working real well," said Lt. Cmdr. William Angermann. "The training is already in place. It's working very well."
Their motto is "Readiness for Victory at Sea through Training" and with the T-45s expected to be fully phased in by November 2004, NAS Meridian will be even more ready.