18 years ago
Below is an article written by Rick Reilly of Sports
Illustrated. He details his experiences when given the
opportunity to fly in a F-14 Tomcat. If you aren't
laughing out loud by the time you get to "Milk Duds,"
your sense of humor is broken. "Now 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!!!
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 dysleptic 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 a 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
unconscious. 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. 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."
The two highest achievements of the human mind are the twin concepts of
"loyalty" and "duty."
Whenever these twin concepts fall into disrepute -- get out of there fast! You
save yourself, but it is too late to save that society. It is doomed. " Lazarus