Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fighter Pilot for a Day, or the Most Awesome Thing you didn't even know existed

The fighter pilot for a day program at Air Combat USA is unbelievably exhilarating, I highly recommend everyone give it a try if you can.  My wife got it for me as a gift at a charity auction, so a buddy and I went up on Friday.  (Incidentally, she went to the auction while I was away in Amsterdam for a bachelor party and I came home to this gift; how awesome is my wife?)
Here's the deal, they take you up in a SIAI Marchetti SF-260 and you engage in simulated dogfights.  But you are not just a passenger, except for takeoff and landing, you control the plane basically the entire time yourself!  They take care of the throttle and other details, and they coach you, but the stick is yours to control.  And I'm not talking about just turning left or right now and then, we did both real combat maneuvers and acrobatics, including formations, yo yo's, barrel rolls, and pull-the-stick-all-the-way-back complete loop the loops.  We pulled over 5 g's at times!  And these little birds just swim through the air, smooth as silk.  Commercial puddle jumper flights are more rough.
As they say, everything's real except the bullets.  They even have it set up so that when you have a simulated hit the bandit spews smoke!  The first two dogfights vs your opponent are scripted, one of you is the bandit and the other gets to win.  The other three fights (or 4, we got a bonus 6th) are set up when you zoom past each other and once you pass it's fight on, and you have to turn and evade quickly to try to get your sights on the opponent.  (You can do a package for one and some other party will be your opponent, but I liked the idea of going against someone I know.)  

My buddy and I split the 4 unscripted dogfights, but I think I won overall because I didn't need to use the puke bags.  I got him cleanly twice, he got me cleanly once, and on one of the fights he simulated chasing me into the ground because I hit the 3,000 ft hard deck.  The was the longest scrap because I had some trouble executing the maneuver at the beginning, pulling too hard on the stick and causing buffetting, thus losing some time and allowing him to get the advantage.  I cleaned it up though, but it was too late for me to make up the ground I had lost, but I was able to hold him off and not get his sights on me for a long time.  But while desperately maneuvering to keep him from getting a bead on me, I ran out of room and "crashed."  It was awesome.
Oh yeah, the planes are outfitted with several cameras that the instructor switches between and records your flight; some face you in the cockpit, one records the gun sights, etc, so I'll eventually post some video once I get the data off the mini DV tape.

1 comment:

  1. Good going there, top gun!

    from a REAL old, bold fighter jock!!

    Ole Ed

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