Hi. As many of you know, one of the most exciting (and perfect) retirement gifts I received from wonderful NHUSD friends and colleagues (and you know who you are!), was a flight in a military trainer with simulated aerial dogfights at approximately 5,000 feet in the sky through Air Combat USA. Well, today was the day I had the experience of a lifetime flying out of Fullerton airport in Southern California. On a previous blog entry about a week ago, I had stated that our ride on the waver runners on San Luis bay was a 9.5 out of 10. I must amend that comment ;-). I have to move that experience to being a 6 out of 10...and today's aerial dogfight experience to being an 11 out of 10. Wow!
I had a 1-hour briefing with the instructor pilot; then donned the flight suit, life-vest, and the parachute. Yup. FAA requirements for this type of flight require the wearing of a parachute. The instruction I received today regarding the chute, if we had to use it, was, "Get out of your seat harness, stand on your seat, and dive head-first past the trailing edge of the wing. If you survive that, pull the d-ring to open your chute." Hmmm.
Then came the actual flight (with the instructor of course). We went up through the clouds as it was overcast and then did some training maneuvers and then engaged in five simulated aerial dogfights. I am struggling to find the words to describe today's experience. I have a private pilot's license and so I have been in "small airplanes" many times over the years. This was beyond anything I could have imagined.
Let me briefly describe one dogfight. (Note: The dogfights are certainly mostly scripted, but do have their own twists-and-turns.) The dogfight began by us heading towards each other at a closing rate of approximately 400 miles per hour (200 mph in each aircraft). Once we passed each other at about 300 feet apart, we went after the "bogey" by climbing straight-up; then turned sharply left over the wing, dove down to come-up from behind the other plane by swooping down and back-up again to get his plane into my windshield target area. Then I pulled the trigger and "electronically" caused smoke to come out of the back of his plane. That was one fight...we had four more. We pulled positive-G's and negative G's. We were right-side up, upside-down, sideways, straight-up, and straight-down. This was the wildest roller-coaster-in-the-air-at-a-mile-high ride I have EVER had. I will never forget this once in a lifetime experience. Thank you!