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Bananas and Milkduds

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Got this from an email. Funny story...






Below is an article written by Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated...

He details his experiences when given the opportunity to fly in an

F-14 Tomcat.. If you aren't laughing out loud by the time you get

To 'Milk Duds,' your sense of humor is seriously broken.


This message is for America 's most famous athletes:

Someday you may be invited to fly in the back-seat of one of your country's

Most powerful fighter jets. Many of you already have. John Elway,

John Stockton, Tiger Woods to name a few. If you get this opportunity,

Let me urge you, with the greatest sincerity.... Move to Guam .


Change your name.


Fake your own death!


Whatever you do,

Do Not Go!!!


I know.


The U.S. Navy invited me to try it. I was thrilled. I was pumped.

I was toast! I should've known when they told me my pilot would

Be Chip (Biff) King of Fighter Squadron 213 at Naval Air Station

Oceana in Virginia Beach ..


Whatever you're thinking a Top Gun named Chip (Biff) King looks

Like, triple it. He's about six-foot, tan, ice-blue eyes, wavy surfer hair,

Finger-crippling handshake -- the kind of man who wrestles

Dyspeptic alligators in his leisure time. If you see this man, run the

Other way. Fast.


Biff King was born to fly. His father, Jack King, was for years the

Voice of NASA missions. ('T-minus 15 seconds and counting'. Remember?)

Chip would charge neighborhood kids a quarter each to hear his dad.

Jack would wake up from naps surrounded by nine-year-olds waiting

For him to say, 'We have liftoff'.


Biff was to fly me in an F- 14D Tomcat, a ridiculously powerful $60 million

Weapon with nearly as much thrust as weight, not unlike Colin Montgomerie.

I was worried about getting airsick, so the night before the flight I asked

Biff if there was something I should eat the next morning.


'Bananas,' he said.


'For the potassium?' I asked.


'No,' Biff said, 'because they taste about the same coming up

As they do going down.'


The next morning, out on the tarmac, I had on my flight suit with my name

Sewn over the left breast. (No call sign -- like Crash or Sticky or Leadfoot.

But, still, very cool.) I carried my helmet in the crook of my arm, as Biff had

Instructed. If ever in my life I had a chance to nail Nicole Kidman, this was it.


A fighter pilot named Psycho gave me a safety briefing and then fastened

Me into my ejection seat, which, when employed, would 'egress' me out

Of the plane at such a velocity that I would be immediately knocked



Just as I was thinking about aborting the flight, the canopy closed over me,

And Biff gave the ground crew a thumbs-up. In minutes we were firing nose

Up at 600 mph. We leveled out and then canopy-rolled over another F-14.


Those 20 minutes were the rush of my life. Unfortunately, the ride lasted 80.

It was like being on the roller coaster at Six Flags Over Hell. Only without rails.

We did barrel rolls, snap rolls, loops, yanks and banks. We dived, rose and

Dived again, sometimes with a vertical velocity of 10,000 feet per minute.

We chased another F-14, and it chased us.


We broke the speed of sound. Sea was sky and sky was sea. Flying at

200 feet we did 90-degree turns at 550 mph, creating a G force of 6.5,

Which is to say I felt as if 6.5 times my body weight was smashing

Against me, thereby approximating life as Mrs.. Colin Montgomerie.


And I egressed the bananas.


And I egressed the pizza from the night before.


And the lunch before that.


I egressed a box of Milk Duds from the sixth grade.


I made Linda Blair look polite. Because of the G's, I was egressing

Stuff that never thought would be egressed.


I went through not one airsick bag, but two.


Biff said I passed out. Twice.. I was coated in sweat. At one point,

As we were coming in upside down in a banked curve on a mock

Bombing target and the G's were flattening me like a tortilla and I

Was in and out of consciousness, I realized I was the first person

In history to throw down.


I used to know 'cool'. Cool was Elway throwing a touchdown pass,

Or Norman making a five-iron bite.. But now I really know 'cool'.

Cool is guys like Biff, men with cast-iron stomachs and freon nerves.

I wouldn't go up there again for Derek Jeter's black book, but I'm

glad Biff does every day, and for less a year than a rookie reliever

makes in a home stand.


A week later, when the spins finally stopped, Biff called. He said

he and the fighters had the perfect call sign for me. Said he'd

send it on a patch for my flight suit.


What is it? I asked.


'Two Bags.'





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And from Dave Barry:







Herald Columnist


Never assume that you and fighter pilots have the same definition of "fun."


Here's what I want you to do: Open your mouth wide. Now take your index finger and stick it WAAAYYYY down your throat and hold it there until your digestive system is in Violent Reverse Thrust Mode. Congratulations! You've just experienced what it feels like to fly in a fighter jet. I know this because I recently went up in a high-performance Air Force F-16 fighter equipped with an extremely powerful engine, sophisticated electronics, spectacular aerobatic capabilities, and - thank God - a barf bag.


There was no beverage-cart service.


The way I got into this was, I spoke at a banquet for personnel at the Homestead (Fla.) Air Reserve Base, which is slowly recovering after having had large sectors of it blown into another dimension by Hurricane Andrew. A banquet organizer had suggested that I might want to go up in an F-16, and some friendly fighter pilots from the 93rd Fighter Squadron convinced me (there WAS beverage service at this banquet) that this would be a lot of fun.


Valuable Tip: Never assume that you and fighter pilots have the same definition of "fun." Your fighter pilot is not a normal individual. Your fighter pilot is an individual who, as a child, liked to ride his bicycle "no-hands." You may also have done this, but your future fighter pilot was doing it on the roof of his house. The fact that these pilots have grown up and received a lot of training and been entrusted by the government with multimillion-dollar aircraft does not change the fact that they are also - and I say this with respect - completely out of their minds.


But I was feeling brave when I arrived at Homestead Air Reserve Base, ready for my preflight training. Friendly Air Force personnel got me a flight suit; while I was putting it on in the locker room, I noticed that there was a little gold plaque over each urinal, each saying something like "MAJ. GEN. (Name) RELIEVED HIMSELF HERE SEPTEMBER 9, 1989." Then I noticed similar gold plaques over the sinks. Then I saw a plaque on the washing machine, reading: "THE ENTIRE 906TH TACTICAL FIGHTER GROUP RELIEVED THEMSELVES HERE MARCH 8, 1991."


Fighter-pilot humor. And I was trusting these guys. Next I underwent an hour of Egress Training, which is when you learn how you get out of the airplane if something goes wrong ("although probably nothing will," they keep telling you). How you get out is: very, very fast. In fact, your seat is actually a small but powerful rocket that will blast you 900 feet straight up if you yank on the yellow handle between your legs, but you're supposed to do this only if the pilot yells BAIL OUT BAIL OUT BAIL OUT - he has to say it three times - and you definitely want to have your head back when you yank it unless you want your kneecaps to pass completely through your eye sockets, which would be bad because you need to check to make sure your parachute has deployed, because if it hasn't you should yank on this other yellow lever over here, and if you're coming down over water you need to inflate your life preserver by pulling on these two red knobs, but first you have to get rid of your oxygen mask by pressing outward on these two metal tabs and yanking the mask forward and . . .


. . . and so on for an hour. Correctly egressing a fighter jet requires WAY more knowledge than medical school. After Egress Training, the pilot, Maj. Derek Rydholm, gave me a Preflight Briefing in which he demonstrated, using a blackboard eraser, some of the aerial maneuvers we'd be doing. "We'll be simulating an attack situation like this," he'd say, moving the eraser around in rapid little arcs. "We'll be feeling some g-forces."


I now realize that, right after we left the briefing room, the eraser threw up.


Actually, my F-16 ride went pretty well at first. Sitting behind Derek in the two-person cockpit, I felt nervous, but my physical discomfort was fairly minor.


Then we took off.


We took off with afterburners. It was like in Star Trek, when they go to Warp Speed. Then we made an unbelievably sudden, violent right turn that made me feel like a clove in a giant garlic press and separated my stomach from the rest of my body by at least two football fields.


And that was just taking off. After that we did attack maneuvers. We did rolls. We broke the sound barrier and then flew straight up for three miles. Then we flew upside down. My stomach never caught up with us. It's still airborne over the Florida Keys, awaiting landing instructions. Here's the conversation Derek and I had over the intercom:


DEREK: That's called an aileron roll.




DEREK: You OK back there?




I'm not saying it wasn't thrilling. It was. I am deeply indebted to Derek Rydholm and the 93rd Fighter Squadron and the entire U.S. Air Force for enabling me to be among the very few people who can boast that they have successfully lost their lunch upside down at five times the Earth's gravitational pull. And despite my discomfort, and the reservations I've expressed in this column, I can honestly say that, if I ever get a chance to go up again, I'll let you go instead. Although you probably won't get to ride in the plane I used. I think they had to burn it.



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And from "Ask The Pilot", an airline pilot who writes for Salon.com.




Ask the Pilot


I take the "flight of a lifetime" on an F-4 Phantom fighter jet and am scared witless. But I'd do it again just to experience six G's.

By Patrick Smith


A substantially different version of this article appeared in the Robb Report. This story has been corrected since it was originally published.


"Out of control at or below 10,000 feet: Eject."


Of all the warnings, cautions and instructions in the training packet, that was the bullet point I kept coming back to. To this civilian-trained pilot, such terrifying scenarios aren't part of our checklists and procedures. Out of control? What do you mean, out of control? What exactly was I in for?


At the very least, I was in for a ride -- a 30-minute "flight of a lifetime" aboard a restored McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom fighter jet, owned and operated by the Collings Foundation, a well-known curator of historic military aircraft.


Founded in 1979, Collings is best known for its vintage World War II craft, including a B-17, and the only flyable example of a B-24 Liberator, both frequent stars of the air-show circuit. Though headquartered in Stowe, Mass., the foundation bases its supersonic Phantom out of Ellington Field, a joint civil-military airport just south of Houston. Here at Collings West, guests can partake in an "Unprecedented Civilian Flight Training Experience." Unprecedented because, to the best of anybody's knowledge, there are no other privately held F-4s anywhere in the world. The daylong course culminates with a hands-on demonstration flight tailored to the customer's experience and, well, stomach strength.


If you're into that sort of thing. As an adolescent aerobuff, and later an airline pilot, I have always been fascinated and compelled by civil aviation -- the airlines, their jetliners and the places they fly. If you'll permit me a moment of aviator blasphemy, there's a rather long list of things I'd rather be doing than vomiting in the skies over Texas in a 40-year-old war machine. The appeal just isn't there. To be perfectly frank, the whole idea has had me trembling with fear for the past two weeks.


So why have I come to Texas to participate in this nutty endeavor? One easy reason: I'm getting paid for it. I'm here on commission for Robb Report magazine, in whose fat, glossy pages -- "For the Luxury Lifestyle" -- a version of this account originally appeared.


Not that I didn't construct my share of Revell and Monogram fighter kits as a youngster. (Do kids still build plastic models?) And truth be told, if I have a soft spot for any single military plane, it's the Phantom, arguably the sexiest-looking fighter ever conceived. In the late '70s you would have seen an F-4 -- the U.S. Navy version, with arrester hook deployed -- strung with nylon fishing line from the ceiling of my bedroom. In spite of its mass (more than 50,000 pounds fully loaded) and power (18,000 pounds of thrust per engine, with afterburners), the Phantom cuts an unmistakably svelte profile. I wouldn't call it elegant, exactly; it's too menacing for that. It's a plane that looks, in a word, vicious, from the bullet tip of the radome to the sharp Gothic lines of the empennage (note the spooky downward cant of the stabilators).


Developed in the 1950s, the F-4 cut its teeth in Vietnam, often dogfighting over Southeast Asia with another Cold War icon, the Soviet-built MiG-21. (Collings has one of those too, and for an added price offers the extremely rare thrill of simulated air-to-air combat duels using both aircraft.) Phantoms later served with both the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds demonstration teams, and the type holds 25 speed and altitude records. More than 5,000 were constructed. The last American armed forces example was withdrawn from service in 1996; a few foreign nations continue to fly upgraded variants.


Collings' Phantom was built in 1966. Plucked from an Air Force boneyard, it was put through extensive overhaul. "Altogether, it took us four years to acquire and ready the plane," says Bill Bowers, a former Marine F-4 pilot and one of Collings' senior aircrew staff. I meet with Bowers over breakfast, and he fills me in on the jet's history. He downs a plate of French toast while I sit there nervously, politely declining to eat. My ride is set for 4 p.m.


From Bowers I learn that Collings never purchased the plane, technically. It was deeded to the foundation by the U.S. government. "That's something that literally takes an act of Congress," he explains. "We're highly fortunate to have this plane and be able to offer this extraordinary experience to the public."


I nod. Silently, I'm sketching out my last will and testament.


Bowers tells the story of the jet's painstaking overhaul, which included a refit with low-time General Electric engines. "We were lucky to find those motors," he says. Where they came from he doesn't say. A major score on Craigslist, maybe. He digs out some photos that show the plane in various stages of rebuilding. Like the jagged peak of an ice-swept mountain, the Phantom is a beautiful thing to admire, but if you ask me, only a brave (or foolish) few would get too close.


Today, I'm getting too close.


At 9 a.m. I'm at Ellington for a classroom briefing, followed by cockpit familiarization and ejection training. Collings' on-site facilities include a disabled ejection seat and a cockpit orientation trainer. Participants are issued a take-home, custom-fit Nomex flight suit (a keepsake that will become my all-purpose around-the-house-chore suit -- an ideal adaptation considering its 15 zippered pockets, including pockets in the knees and calf, the sanctioned uses of which nobody ever explained to me).


My flight instructor is Harry Daye, an Air Force veteran with more than 2,500 hours of F-4 experience, including 1,000 as an instructor. Harry will be in the forward cockpit seat, in command of our flight. Like everyone else at Collings, he volunteers his time. In his other life, Harry lives in Arizona and flies 737s for Southwest Airlines. Calm, confident, with just a tinge of raffish cocksure, Harry strikes me as the type of flier who embraces a certain kind of fate -- able to put equal trust in both his machine and himself. One gets a sense that Harry knows exactly what he's doing. And I like that, since secretly I'm scared witless.


Also enrolled in the day's program is Bill Disser, a retired aerospace engineer from California. He is scheduled to fly first, and that's fine with me, since it increases the chances of the plane breaking down and my own sortie getting canceled. Disser says he is 78, but he could easily pass for 30 years younger. He's something of an aviation swashbuckler (and, literally, a rocket scientist), and when I ask why he has paid close to $10,000 for this obscene thrill, he spouts the adrenaline junkie mantra -- which, I can't help admitting, sounds a bit odd coming from a septuagenarian retiree. "Faster planes, younger women and colder beer," he explains. "I'm into speed, that's my thing."


Me, I'm not into speed. I look at Disser and try to figure him out. Is he in fact a ridiculous person who spent a ridiculous amount of money to do ridiculous things in a ridiculous airplane? Or is the problem with me? Possibly I'm missing a chromosome -- the one with the gene that makes the majority of pilots savor the sensation of thundering through the air, upside down, at 500 knots. For me, it's not fun. Or maybe it could be fun -- just not in an antique plane scavenged from a desert surplus heap that you fear is about to crack into pieces. The Collings Phantom was built in 1966. I was built in 1966. The plane's mean-eyed sleekness and remarkable capabilities aside, I'd rather be lumbering to Hong Kong in a 747.


Which isn't to say I can't appreciate an extraordinary thrill. In Africa a few years ago, after finding myself submerged under a capsized raft amid the Grade 5 swirl of the Zambezi River, the experience came down to two simple words: never again. But was it worth it? Definitely. Or, I think so.


Strapping into an F-4, then, is consigning my dues -- payback for all my treasonous affections for the softer side of flying. Harry Daye is going to kick my romantic ass from cloud to cloud, and I'd better like it.


In the classroom, Harry presents a primer of the Phantom's onboard systems. Notable is a system that pumps high-velocity, superheated air over the wings to ward off laminar separation (stall) during high angles of attack and a stability augmentation system that fine-tunes the forces of roll, pitch and yaw. "Fighters are naturally unstable," Harry explains. "That allows them to be so maneuverable. The ideal fighter should be as unstable as possible, while still controllable."


"Sounds like my wife," cackles Disser.


Out on the sunny tarmac, I watch as Disser is helmeted and strapped into the rear cockpit by Bowers. The ground crew, a volunteer force of a half-dozen, swarms beneath the belly. They're checking hatches, attaching external power supplies and watching keenly for anything damaged, leaking or otherwise out of place. The Collings Phantom is painted in olive and brown camouflage -- an exact replica of the plane flown by Steve Richie, the only U.S. Air Force pilot ace of the Vietnam War. Richie's five shoot-downs appear as stenciled red stars on the left-side engine intake.


Harry, in the forward seat, fires up the engines -- those two G.E. noisemakers from the days before modern turbofans. The racket they emit is unlike anything else. It's a roar, rumble and hiss all at once -- a rattling and layered cacophony strong enough to crack your thighbones. Finally the chocks are pulled, and as the jet taxis away, the sudden quiet is startling.


Awaiting their takeoff, I talk with Tommy Garcia, director of the Collings West operation. He's twitchy and distracted like an expectant father -- a bit more nervous, maybe, than excited. I ask Garcia about the plane's upkeep. "It's been good to us, knock on wood," he says, with a cross between a laugh and a sigh. "Certain systems are maintenance intensive." Later I learn from Harry that a near-total hydraulic failure occurred during one early flight -- a malfunction traced to a faulty repair -- that came close to necessitating the bailout of both occupants. After safely returning, Harry convened a staff powwow to ensure no similar mistake would be made again. "It's been a steep learning curve," admits Garcia, "but at this point we're confident." The Collings Phantom falls under the Federal Aviation Administration's "experimental" jurisdiction. In the agency's eyes, each flight is a sort of instructional sortie, operated under supplemental guidelines to ensure safety.


At last Harry and Disser come screaming down the pavement in front of us, afterburners at full bore. The plane lifts off, rides level for a moment, then noses upward into a straight vertical climb. From our perspective, it seems to be a full 90-degree ascent. "Right there," says Garcia, shaking his head. "That's the point where your kidneys are going through the back of your seat!" There's a faint popping noise, which is either the sound of Harry cutting out the afterburners or something gone plunk in the pit of my stomach. Within seconds, the Phantom has shrunk to a tiny speck in the azure Texas sky. I'm secretly hoping they disappear somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico so I don't have to go.


Twenty minutes later, they're back. Garcia and the ground crew hear them first, lifting their heads en masse, like dogs picking up the sound of some distant prey. As the plane drops into the traffic pattern, a lively burst of chatter erupts -- the sort of anthropomorphic fetishizing that airplane nuts are so adept at. "Here she comes," says one of them as the Phantom scorches by. "Man," he adds huskily, Just listen to her!" In the air, the F-4 makes a distinctive and vaguely evil sound -- an apocalyptic whine quite unlike that of like any other plane.


As he steps down the ladder, Disser is soaked with sweat and his face is the color of a rotten cantaloupe. But he's beaming with an almost inhuman grin.


Then it's my turn.


The whole seating process takes a good 10 minutes. There are harnesses to latch, straps to tighten, oxygen masks to attach -- a Rube Goldberg affair of lanyards, hoses and clips. As Bowers belts me in, I keep thinking of Robert Duvall, his F-4 going down in flames at the end of "The Great Santini," a favorite movie when I was a kid.


The lines pulled taut, you feel at one with this monster. Like it or not, you're part of the aircraft and the aircraft is part of you. A component no less integral than a wing spar or an aileron, you're capable of absorbing whatever madness Harry is capable of dishing out. Or so you hope. (Not that the rider isn't instantly and explosively expellable, if need be. Don't forget, I'm sitting atop a rocket-propelled ejection seat -- the dos and don'ts of which I've pretty much forgotten.) As we taxi out, running through a series of checklists, I feel as though I'm perched atop a giant, coiled spring, the plane wanting to bolt from beneath me, pulling like a bulldog against its leash. The beast wants to do one thing only: move.


And move it does, afterburners alight, down the runway to 150 knots, at which point Harry yanks us into the air. He immediately levels off, picking up yet more speed. Watching the ground rush by, it strikes me that I've never been this low and fast at the same time. Accelerating over the airport perimeter at 300 knots, Harry pulls the stick back to his crotch and up we go. And I do mean up. With a greater than 1:1 thrust-to-weight ratio at sea level, the Phantom can elevate. The zoom climb to 15,000 feet takes all of about nine seconds. At the top of the climb, after switching off the afterburners, Harry rolls the Phantom upside down, then comes smoothly back over.


"How many G's was that?"


"About four."


The normal force of gravity, quadrupled. Maybe you've read other people's accounts of what multiple G's feel like in a high-performance aircraft. The analogies always vary, but in my case, an enormous sack of potatoes had been hurled onto my lap, and each of my limbs became chained to an anvil. During the ascent I could barely move, because for all intents and purposes I suddenly weighed almost 800 pounds. If you ever do this, don't have your head down or your shoulders turned when that zoom climb commences, lest you be frozen in that position the whole ride up.


And if you like four G's, hang in there for five, six and almost seven, as you're put through an aerobatic ringer of combat-spec turns, climbs and descents. I'm showed a couple of max-performance aileron rolls with a rotation of nearly 720 degrees per second.


Harry asks if I "wanna take it," and I tell him sure. Mind you, I haven't touched the controls of any airplane since my layoff from the airlines more than four years earlier, and I've never done aerobatics. I give it a whirl, literally, and the results aren't pretty. Though in fairness to myself, forward visibility from the rear seat is all but nonexistent, with only a token set of old-fashioned instruments. The only view, albeit a panoramic one, is through either side of the canopy. Technically, the aft cockpit is the weapons officer's station. The plane can be flown from here, but it's engineered and instrumented for the crewman up front.


Harry tells me to try a couple of aileron rolls. Not that I've ever done one, but I go ahead and whirl the Phantom 360 degrees. At least that's the plan; unfortunately, because the roll rate is so damn fast, I keep overshooting the horizon. Rolling out at what I think is level, I'm actually in a 120-degree bank. After three or four rotations, spinning the plane around and around like a sideways tornado, I give up.


"Where the hell is up?"


"I've got it," says Harry, unscrewing me from the sky. I'm embarrassed, and I'm dizzy.


But at least I haven't thrown up. Prior to the flight, having consulted with colleagues who'd flown fighters, my odds of vomiting were placed at anywhere from 50 to 99 percent, depending how ornery a mood Harry was in and what I had for breakfast (water). Happily I don't feel ill. But what do I feel?


Coming up exclusively through civilian ranks, I instructed in light four-seaters before captaining turboprops that rarely exceeded 250 knots. Later I flew cargo planes and 737s. Suffice it to say this ride is nothing like any other experience I've had. There are vestigial similarities between cockpits, but the sensations -- those intense centrifugal pressures interspersed with moments of weightlessness -- are wholly unique. The forces of acceleration and degrees of climb and bank, particularly in their rapidity, have me alternating between surges of exhilaration, physical pain and mortal fear.


But that, I suppose, is whole idea.


"Are fighter pilots put through vomit training?" I ask Harry. "Does the Air Force screen for queasiness?"


"What?" Harry crackles back though the intercom.


"Nothing," I reply, just as he digs the left wing into a 90-degree snap roll.


Next up is supposed to be a mega-G, 180-degree turn. But just as we start to accelerate, there's a noise -- a rhythmic series of muffled bangs from the right engine. They sound like compressor stalls.


"That's weird," says Harry. He fumbles with the power, and "bang, bang, bang" it goes again. "Let me see something." He slows the plane to about 300 knots, straight and level. Then he slowly advances the right thrust lever. "Bang, bang, bang, bang." The plane quivers and yaws.


Compressor stalls are an interruption of the airflow around the interior compressor blades of jet engines -- caused by anything from sudden, severe crosswinds to internal engine damage. They can be loud and will occasionally manifest themselves through colorful tongues of flame, but rarely are they hazardous. I know that. I've always known that. But this time, all things considered, the racket is a death knell. I'm saying to myself, "See, I told you we were going to die."


"Arright, arright," I call to Harry from the back seat, in a voice perhaps a tad more urgent than is deserved. "Don't f*** with it anymore."


Harry stops f***ing with it. He apologizes, he reduces the errant engine to idle, and we return to the airport for a single-engine approach. "No need to declare an emergency," he says. "But we ought to head back and ask for a straight-in vector."


Which we do. I'm good with that. As far as I'm concerned, it's the best thing that could have happened. The engine might be gasping and banging, but short of having to bail out, I'm spared the full syllabus of painful maneuvers. (Later, the compressor stalls would be traced to the ingestion of an unknown foreign object -- a rock or other stray debris -- during taxi or takeoff. Several intake blades were badly bent, necessitating a complete engine change.)


Harry lets me fly the initial approach while he works the good engine. We're doing 250 knots as I finesse a couple of oatmeal descents and a succession of lethargic turns. Not exactly high-performance maneuvering. I sense that Harry is annoyed, or at least perplexed. A Phantom isn't meant to be flown like a 737. I mean, what's the point?


He takes it for the final turn, and a few minutes later we're down, the drag chute popping from the tail cone as we roll along Ellington's runway 17R.


"How was it?" asks Tommy Garcia as I climb from the cockpit. He's wearing one of those I-told-you-so grins.


Well, if you really must know, it was awful. It was wrenching and frightening in every possible way -- and maybe a bit dangerous. And just the same, of course, it was thrilling and unforgettable. Such a weird, combustible dichotomy won't make sense to many people, but it's familiar to many pilots -- if not entirely to me, though I'm beginning to understand it more clearly.


The next morning, I wake up in a fog of regret and embarrassment, wishing the flight had gone as planned. I wanted to feel six G's.



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Okay, this one can't beat that, but it's still fun...



A C-130 was lumbering along when a cocky F-16 flashed by. The jet jockey decided to show off.


The fighter jock told the C-130 pilot, "Watch this!" and promptly went into a barrel roll followed by a steep climb. He then finished with a sonic boom as he broke the sound barrier.


The F-16 pilot asked the C-130 pilot what he thought of that.


The C-130 pilot said, "That was impressive, but watch this!"


The C-130 droned along for about 5 minutes and then the C-130 pilot came back on and said "What did you think of that?"


Puzzled, the F-1 6 pilot asked, "What the hell did you do?"


The C-1 30 pilot chuckled. "I stood up, stretched my legs, went to the back, took a leak then got a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun."


When you are young and foolish - speed and flashy may be a good thing. When you get older and much wiser, comfort and dull are not such bad attributes to have around, now are they?

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The C-1 30 pilot chuckled. "I stood up, stretched my legs, went to the back, took a leak then got a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun."


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