Ever get to fly in an F-16 fighter? I have. Many of my friends have. Sometimes I forget that everyone doesn’t get to do this. Savannah Guthrie of the Today Show got a ride. From her big brother no less. LtCol Camron “Arlo” Guthrie is assigned to the 158th Fighter Wing of the Vermont Air National Guard. The Green Mountain Boys. For the record. I got two rides.
While stationed at George AFB, morale was a little low. The 563rd Tactical Fighter Squadron commander popped in on us during weekend duty and asked what would improve morale. We all said “Rides!”. So two a day until everyone flew. I went up with my pilot “Stitch”. Mount Shasta was weathered in so we hung a right and went to the Grand Canyon and Death Valley. We engaged our wing man, who happened to be my neighbor, in a little air to air combat. I’m proud to say I got AIM-7 hits four out of six times.
I asked Stitch to show me a High Speed Yo-yo.
He got our speed up and yanked us into a 4 G pull up. At the top we got a couple of negative G’s as we rolled.
While rocketing towards the desert floor Stitch came on the intercom using his best “Airliner Voice”.
“As you can see from our preflight briefing, we are now demonstrating the F-4 in a maximum performance dive. Note that your V.V.I is pegged out and your H.S.I ball is completely black. Uh Oh. Talked too long, have to pull her back.”
At that point the stick was rammed into my belly and we started to pull out of the dive. As the G load came on I fought the tunnel vision and watched the G meter needle climb.2….3…..4….5 and a half. At this point the Angels started to sing to me. I got a real bad “Don’t give a shit” attitude. We’d been yanking and banking. This didn’t happen before. But then I looked down and saw the end of my disconnected G-suit hose waving at me like a snake. Uh oh. I didn’t pass out, but when he unloaded the G, my beef stew lunch came right up.
After stowing my stew in a bag and going to 100% oxygen, Stitch let me fly the jet. “To help get you right again”, he said. After some straight and level with not too much negative (because negative G’s are a bitch) he asked if I wanted to try a roll. “Sure”. I tried three times to roll the aircraft but each time I did a split S. Each time Stitch pulled us out and I tried again. On the third time he told me I “Had the jet”. With the intercom on “Cold mic” I could still here him ralphing in the front seat. When he took the jet back I asked, “Hey did you go cold mic for what I went cold mic for?” He said, “Roger that. We’ll throw the bags out at end of runway. No one will ever know”.
In Zaragoza Spain I got a ride in an F-16. I wanted to fly with my pilot “Mikey”. When he saw me all suited up he asked me how my flight was. I told him I’d been waiting for him to get back. “Oh shit”, he said “I have to debrief. Do you know how to read our maps?’ Yes I did. He took me to the planning room. “Plan us a route through France on ‘Low Level One. Pick this lake as way point number one. Enter France here. Then give us the range coming out of France and then back to base.” He looked at me. “Got it?”, he asked. “Yes sir”.
So I sat down with the computer and planned our mission. I had it just about done when he came walking back in munching a sandwich. “Looks good, print it”.
In the briefing room we met the other crew. “Glenbo” was taking another crew chief up. He asked Mikey if he was going to brief because Glenbo hadn’t planned anything. Mikey said “Squadron rule is he who plans, briefs. Walt is doing the briefing”. Glenbo just stared.
Once Mikey got the engine started and we were ready to taxi out he said, “Do you know where the arm/dearm area is?”
“Take us there”. Oh boy! I got to taxi us out of the spot and down to the arm/dearm area. Mikey had more in store.
“Do you know where the Hammerhead is?”
“Take us there”.
Now I’ve got the hang of it and put the jet on the runway. Once I lined us up, Mikey ran up the engine.
“It’s a good one. Brakes out”, he said and we began to roll. At 108 mph he said…
“Take us up Walt.”
“Yes you. Hurry up we’re running out of room”.
So very gingerly I brought the stick back and we left the ground.
“No. Like this.” Mikey said.
He yanked us into the vertical and suddenly I was riding a hundred mile an hour roller coaster straight up. We had a blast rocketing through the French mountains. We did bombing passes at the range. He showed me the “Dutch Wiggle”. Then I got my 9G pin. Nine G’s was rough, I’m not kidding. But at least I didn’t throw up.
On the way back to ZZA, Mike said look over my right shoulder. “HOLY SHIT!”, there was Glenbo sucked up so tight I could’ve reached out and touched him.