Fighter Pilot For a Day with Air Combat USA

Saturday, November 15, 2008
Category: Photo Album

The experience of a life time is what I told my family and friends when I was trying to get them to go with me to become a "fighter pilot for a day"; Air Combat USA did not disappoint.

I found out about Air Combat USA through the 2008 annual Angelorum auction which I was helping to procure auction items for. When a fellow auction team member said he would be procuring this item I knew that I wanted to go and could probably get some coworkers to go with me.

As it turned out we had six people go in our group. My dad and I, then three other co workers that work at the Cypress Lynnwood office and the son in-law of one of my coworkers. One of my coworkers, Steve Fouts, has posted his photos online too.

Air Combat provides an amazing once in a life time experience for those interested in high performance aircraft. The day starts off with a one hour briefing which covers safety and the rules of engagement, then we were off to the tarmac to do our flying in pairs. This is the point in the story where everyone asks me, "do you know how to fly a plane", no I don't! And then they ask, "are these real planes", yes they are! This is how it works. As a Air Combat participant you are paired with an experienced pilot, many with military experience, you sit side by side in a dog fighting training such as a SIAI Marchetti SF.260. The experienced pilot takes care of takeoff, landing, rudder, and throttle, you have complete control of the stick.

I had been in a few small commercial planes before as well as small personal planes and was underwhelmed at what I thought was their slow response to stick movement. My experience in the SF.260 was completely different and matched the sub-title of a SF.260 review in Plane & Pilot Magazine, "Yeah, itís Italian, and if youíre thinking 'flying Ferrari or Lamborghini,' you're ABSOLUTELY right".

As I moved the stick forward, backward, left, or right the plane instantly and powerfully changed direction. I remember the first time I pulled back on the stick with some enthusiasm and felt the plane swiftly climb upward as my innards felt like they were moving swiftly into the seat bottom!

For me the experience was thrilling any physically taxing as we went through loops and turns generating several G's of force on my body. I recall thinking before arriving at Boeing Field that the experience would be mostly about geometrical strategy, when in reality for me it was about the plane pushing my body to it's limits. After my flight I'm thinking that I need to sign up for a package of five flights so that I can train my body to withstand the forces and go all out in the 5th flight.

The Air Combat planes have at least four video cameras in them that record the entire experience, I'll try to post that video here to PIAP.com for you to get a better feel for what being a fighter pilot for a day is like.

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