Back at only 4,000 feet my stomach settles and Alexander asks if I’m ready. “ready a long time ago!” I replied. Okay, he says, “We will start with some light G force manoeuvres then go more”. Pulling only about 3Gs in wide turns, the force is ample, I can feel my suit tighten as the fighter jet pushes me through the sky. Not bad… but then we start the loops.
At first we only do half a loop and at the 180 degree mark we barrel roll up right and cruise for a moment. It happens so fast it’s a shock. To all of a sudden, be still, and not under G-force anymore. We execute another and than another but this time we complete the full loop. Pointing directly at the ground, even for a moment it’s intense but at any other moment I find it hard to pay attention to the outside world snapping by.
Next was “The Ear” – an evasive manoeuvre used in a dog fighting with an enemy, if you trace the outside edge of the ear it follow almost exactly that path and the top of the aircraft mostly stays on the inside of the line. It’s the shape of half a drawn heart. My imagination damns burst and my mind goes frantic. As I childishly pretend a bogey is on our six. The bogey can’t match our turn and is now in front of us. Instantly, I fire missiles!
Then the pilot says “okay Shaun, now you take control of” I don’t think he even finished his sentence before I was tight in to a hard left banking turn. This time, pushing about 3G’s of forces on to myself. The power felt amazing. I changed right and began a hard turn that way. “good” the pilot said as I level out “now try this, pitch.. and roll” and we did a barrel roll. Now it’s my turn to pitch and roll and I execute without hesitation. This is no time for idle thoughts. It’s business time. I mean, there are bogies in the sky! It felt like the jet rolled so fast that I’m correcting almost as fast as I was executing the manoeuvre. On the video, it looks pretty slow compared to Alexander. I was only a hair off the center mark when it was finished. This is truly amazing, I can’t believe I’m doing this. Though I over pitched more it was very intuitive. I could tell where to stop and I ended up only a little off centre at the end of the roll. In my head, I now fire missiles at the enemy.
Once my imagination was reeled in, my stomach caught up with me and said WTF!? I told Alexander that I needed a a small rest. He said okay Low level fly by and from there we dived down and now, almost as if zooming in with a camera lense, the ground is abruptly in full focus as we blast across the runway then point straight up, 90 degrees and climb! Truly amazing as we level off to setup for the next manoeuvre. One I knew was coming.
“Now we do high G loops” Alexander said. This was, intense. I know from watching videos and hearing about pilot experiences that when you get to high Gs, blood starts to leave your head and your vision fades to black. Well I got to experience exactly that. The black fades in quickly from the top as you hit the apex of the loop but fades back in as you pass the 180 degree mark. When I looked down at the meter after two loops we pulled a little over 7Gs!!! unreal. Yet real in the pressure was like nothing I’ve felt. The suit contracted in what I can only imagine would be like an anaconda making me it’s breakfast.
This was all leading up to the grand finale manoeuvre. The hammerhead. This involves rocketing the jet directly at the sky. 90 degrees and decreasing speed until the jet loses momentum pauses for a moment in the sky then begins to fall. Backwards.You fall backwards for a second until, through the flight controls, the nose is pointed back at the ground and acceleration kicks back in! To pause even for that second in the sky was consuming. This can’t be happening. The pull back down was immense as we do one more bank around the runway to setup for our landing.
I am alive or am I dreaming this? I know this has happened in my dreams before but did it actually just happen? I know my stomach isn’t in knots in my dreams so this has to be real but I don’t want it to end. Shock and awe is a little to cliche right now. I would put myself in a contemplation state of dream or reality. Fact or fiction. I actually couldn’t say much to the pilot or crew afterwards. I’m silent, internal and the only analogy I can think of is when a women is told she has the “pregnancy” glow. An ambient aura of happiness and elegance is seen in her poise and expression. Well I had the “I just flew a #$^& jet fighter” glow. A dream come true. Knowing I completed what I set out to do so long ago. Living exactly how I want to live. A fulfilling life of satisfied curiosities and world travel.
A very special thanks to Country of Tourism for making the experience happen. Not only were they responsive to my emails and patient with all my questions, but also very personable and engaging with me before and after the flight. Every step of the way, they were there and they even took care of my invitation to Russia so I could get my visa. Great service and this is only one of the many amazing adventures they offer. Check out their website: Go to Russia and book your next adventure in with them. I know I can’t wait to go for my next flight!