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Air Combat USA : Trip Report

Air Combat USA - Fighter Pilot for a Day

When snowboarding, scuba and car racing aren't extreme enough...

My wife won this "experience" for me at a charity auction. She knows I'm into speed and a bit of an adrenalin junkie so it made a perfect Father's Day gift. However I do have an issue with heights so I went into this with a good deal of apprehension.

The concept here is you learn to fly aerial combat maneuvers in a small Marchetti SF-260, a plane used by several air forces around the world for fighter pilot training. The plane is very small, light and extremely maneuverable. It just doesn't have the speed of a jet but otherwise it can do almost anything else a jet can do. After just about an hour in a classroom of just the absolute basics of flying the plane we headed out to the tarmac and strapped in.

Once in the air the pilot told me to take the stick and get the feel for moving the plane around. We played follow the leader a little bit and practiced tracking each other in the gun sights. Then it was time to start the combat. Each scenario starts with us flying towards each other, passing at a good distance from each other of course, and when we pass its "fight on"!

That's when things got interesting. The instructor shouted instructions at me to go up, go down, bank left, harder, faster, steeper! I lost track of how many times we were upside down and not that it mattered because I was focused on finding my opponent which wasn't always easy.

Within minutes, I was nauseous, my face was pale, sweaty and my mouth was completely dry from breathing so hard. Although the instructor had me get a barf bag ready in my lap before we took off I was fortunate enough to not need it. I felt really close several times and by the fifth scenario I was just about done with the whole thing. The instructor then opened the canopy a little to let in more fresh air which helped soothe the nausea a lot.

By the time I got back to the ground I was completely disoriented and I told everyone I'd never do that again. But a couple days later after the effects wore off I looked back on the experience as being a total thrill and now I can say that I would definitely do it again!!

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Arriving at the facility at KVAA.
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Learning about aerial combat using the latest high tech techniques.
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The planes are refueled and ready to go.
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Strapping in for the flight.
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Not much instrumentation on my side of the cockpit.
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I just need to focus on finding my opponent in this thing.
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Taking control of the plane.
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Passing the other plane. Fight's On!
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Where did the ground go? Oh, there it is.
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There's my opponent.
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Here bogey bogey...
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Coming in for a landing.
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Video available:
Here is some video of my experience including both some video taken by my sister as well as the in-flight video you get to take home with you after the experience. The flight was over an hour so this video is just the highlights and is about 14 minutes long.

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Comments From People Like You!
Air Combat USA 2008
Add a Comment add a comment
22-Jun-2008 06:17
ACM, Air Combat Manuver.
So what you call sign?
Not Maverick or Goose?  
How about Hollywood, or Bollywood,
Iceman or ice cube,
Cougar or MILF.

Now get a pocket rocket and scream down the driveway with Highway to danger on your ipod.

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