Who of us hasn’t wondered what it would be like to fly in a fighter plan. We found this great article on a reporter’s experience flying in an F-16. The US Air Force sometimes offers journalists the chance to ride in an F-16 when the Thunderbirds are in town. The team, which is to the Air Force what the Snowbirds are to Canada.
We hope you enjoy the read!
I flew in an F-16 with the Air Force and oh boy did it go poorly
Somewhere high above New Jersey, I yanked the oxygen mask off my face, worried I was about to throw up.
Maj. Jason Markzon, the pilot of our F-16 fighter jet, had just steered the plane through two tight, hard turns, part of an aviation procedure called the G-exercise. A moment later, Markzon—whose Air Force call sign is Flack—abruptly rolled the aircraft on its side, a maneuver known as a knife-edge pass that put the plane’s stubby wings perpendicular to the ground. He brought us back to horizontal, then pulled the plane hard to the right. I groaned.
The crushing turns and fast choppy maneuvers were physically punishing—a roller coaster ride I wanted to end. “Do you mind leveling out?” I asked.
“Rob, how’s it going, man?” Flack asked, his voice coming in through the speakers in my red, white, and blue helmet.
“I do not feel well,” I replied.
We had taken off some 20 minutes earlier, all eight stages of the jet’s afterburners lit and rocketing us down a runway at MacArthur Airport on Long Island. We screamed off the ground and into a partly cloudy blue sky on a windy morning in late May. Moments after becoming airborne, Flack pulled back on the control stick in his right hand, sending us into a 60-degree climb at something north of 400 mph.
The seats on an F-16 are reclined at an angle of 30 degrees, so a 60-degree climb feels like you’re going straight up. We flew to about 10,000 feet. That took all of about 30 seconds and hit us with 5.4 Gs, or more than five times the force of gravity. I weigh around 155 pounds, but at that acceleration, it felt like I weighed more than 800. Flack ended the climb by leveling us out with a slow roll. For just a moment, we were upside down.