Ever Fly in a Jet Fighter?

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.    For the record. I got two rides.

incentive ride
1979- Me in the F-4.

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.

The High Yo-yo. We were the attacking aircraft.

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 hear 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 the end of the runway. No one will ever know”.

zza f-16 ride
My F-16 ride in ZZA.

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 waypoint 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”.

“Mikey” that day.

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.

Mikey flipped the jet over and hung me in the seat. 30,000 feet, straight down!

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.

F-16 ride cup
Buy your coffee cup.


30 thoughts on “Ever Fly in a Jet Fighter?

  1. It’s more fun to hear him tell the stories in person, but this is a good read too.

  2. It is an awesome ride! I tossed my cookies and still had a great time…would never pull 9g’s again, but would certainly do the rest again…

  3. The part between wheels up and max climb velocity at 15′ AGL was pretty exciting as well.

  4. yes, max climb and then going inverted…best part of the ride…felt like you were on a rocket…

  5. Incentive ride in an F4D at Aviano in 1983…Tacked and Yacked but actually enjoyed it. Never had any problem with turbulence in a commercial aircraft after that. Turned down the F-16 ride a few years later…Thought I was better at guarding them.

  6. Three rides!! 3.6 hours in the F-16! Tail no.’s 84-1327, 90-0796 &
    Paul Whynot.

  7. Told supervisor at the Lick that I was getting out and wanted a ride, he said “You don’t have PCS orders yet”, so I was denied. Since then I have flown tons, mostly doing my own piloting. Trying hard to get a ride in one of the ’38’s at Whiteman…not holding my breath.

  8. Neal Layfield had the best ride when he and “Flash” Conlon got to chase a MiG at the Lik.

  9. We did 9g’s, but I didn’t get anything but the memory of it. I got pencil vision out of it, but didn’t feel bad after I heard my pilot say over the radio that he was flying blind, so it had happened to him too. With the awesome g-suit and seat angle of the F-16, I felt that up to about 7.5 was still fun, but after that it was too much work. After we hit 9 (took us 2 tries) I felt like abused silly putty. I would do it again in a heartbeat, but would skip the 9g part. At one point we flew about 200ft off the deck, scaring the crap out of some goats along the coast of the Med., as I got my ride while TDY to Incirlik.

  10. I remember roaring past a herd of sheep on a meadow. Thought it looked like the Sound of Music. There was even a sheep herder in black pants, white shirt, black vest and beret….Shaking his fist at us as we whizzed on by. LOL

  11. It was early morning, TDY to Zaragoza Spain. A knock at the door. I was still in my skivvies. I answered the door wiping the sleep from my eyes. There stood our SMsgt. Looking thru the blur I hear him say “You sure are dressed funny for a guy about the fly the worlds finest fighter”. My brain stopped then started. No doubt he saw the look of surprise on my face. With that he said “Double time down to the fight line and suit up. You’re going up today”. I had just recently received a “below-the-zone” promotion and this was my reward. I can vaguely remember running out the door high tailing it just about as fast as I could. I might have been tying my shoe and running at the same time.

    It feels different. It just feels different when you get to fly.

    We did what we needed to do down there to prep for flight. They pointed me in the right direction and got me suited up. Never had put on a G-suit before. The suit fit like a glove and it felt great strapping it on. Needless to say strapping on tail number HR-324 felt even better. Pulling the pins for the ejection seat makes you think about it a little bit. However, soon after the canopy closes and the whirl of the engine goes to almost a whisper you quickly forget about it and focus on the thrill at hand.

    We taxied to EOR. 327 Launched with us. It wasn’t long before thumbs up then wheels up and best view in the world was there for the taking.

    Being an avionics dude I decided to keep my eyes on the instruments when we started moving around. I wanted to enjoy the ride instead of spending my time with my face in a bag. It worked and when we got to the play area I took the stick. A roll was so simple it was like riding a bike. Just watching the instruments, rolling that puppy around and releasing straight and level. It was like I had done it a million times. Awesome. In my periphery the world rolled around us.

    Pulling 9 G’s was another story. The pilot whose name I forget (I hope he will forgive me) walked us thru some G maneuvers a little at a time. 3G’s, 5G’s,7G’s, then 9. That wasn’t too bad. “Now you try it” he said. I was supposed to roll it upside down, pull the nose down. roll it back over then pull left or something like that. I went for it. Rolling upside down. Got it! That’s when everything changed. When you’re upside down the throttle commands are different. That’s right you guessed it. I pushed the stick forward instead of back and tried to do a nose over while upside down. Negative G’s big-time. Not a good thing. He took the aircraft immediately, told me what I did wrong which I understood instantly and said “now try it again”

    This time, different story. The maneuver went well and the G’s kicked in. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. My driver took the aircraft and lined us up for an intercept with 327. The sky was clear, we had a high ceiling it was great. As we enter into the intercept he’s trying to tell me where the other guy is. Against the sky to an untrained eye it’s kind of tough to see a grey jet zipping around against the blue sky. The energy started to rise and he tried to get me to see the intercept approaching from our 3 O’clock. At the last second I saw the pass. Whew! It was quick. I mean double quick. It was a good thing I was strapped in cause my reflex was to jump out of my seat.

    After a minute or so I think my heart started to beat normal again. He directed my attention to the video in my MFD. He said ” you see those two mountain peeks over there?”. It took a second to get oriented. The peeks were a distance away. It had started to rain a little and the HUD camera video was a little grey. When I saw them I replied “roger that”. He said “take us over there”. I got us close, he took the aircraft and like 007 we turned sideways and flew right between them. Now some might call that hot dogging, it’s been many years since that day so it’s an old story now. This guy knew how to fly with all the confidence and skill he needed. I’ve gotta tell you, I fell in love with the sky that day.

    Since then I’ve had the opportunity to fly Cessna’s at Shaw AFB, gliders over the Moselle and the Shenandoah, and hang glide just a few miles from Annapolis. Each time I do, each time I get a chance to slip the surly bonds of earth I know a peace that I can never seem to find with my feet on the ground.

    Mark Scott on the left.

    Live well and fly if you can.


  12. Now that’s what I call a Comment. Well done.
    You made me remember. At one point Mikey told me to look over my right shoulder. OMG!!! There was a pitot tube right fucking there!! Glenn had tucked up tight. I watch the T-Birds and think, “That’s not close”. They fly wing tip to wing tip. We had our wings overlapping.

  13. And just to add to that Record I have assisted the crew chief, flown in this jet and flown this jet and dived on Adana Turkeys Airport and was told by the Pilot AKA Mr Howell the 3rd that he had it from there, not to mention went the speed of sound over the Med invaded Syrian airspace for about a minute and filled two goody bags upon my return to the pattern over Incerlik Air Base Turkey and Thanks Sue I would be your 3rd whip any time 😉 Remember the Campbell soup song?

    Jerry Nichols.

  14. OMG Jerry, you totally crack me up! Nice job! I too enjoyed a ride in my own jet….. Max climb take off, 9+ G’s, supersonic over the Med, some crazy stunt flying in this awesome canyon, brief stay on the Syrian side and got to take over a little myself…. Although….no goodie bags were filled. The trick, was chew gum…. I carried gum with me and anytime someone was getting a ride, I gave them gum. lol Worked most of the time! If not, some rags and clearer were waiting for you when you got out. lol I highly enjoyed crew’n a two seater, once I had received my own ride, I was pumped for the folks that were getting theirs. Like living it over again to see people land and share in the excitement. And btw, thank you for the kudos Jerry, you rocked as a crew dog as well!
    Sue Christian.

  15. Bud & I got our rides over Spanish skies while we were TDY in Zaragoza…That was freedom; the roar was indescribable, the force hitting my chest and squeezing my legs was terrific; and for the first time I got it. I got why our freedom was worth it, why we were doing what we were doing. I will never forget that feeling…

  16. I got 2 flights. Both were in Incirlick. 1st one was when I was in Job Control and TDY with the 313th in 1987. I had originally been in the 313th BTW when it was “white” and during the transition to “orange” But being stationed at Hahn for 7 years you can be in a few different units. 🙂

    I worked on them I didn’t fly them,however I got to go up in the F-16 twice and you get to control a little bit on an incentive flight, but my pilot the 2nd time let me do a lot of controlling the stick. This photo is of my 2nd incentive flight. I did have my run license and got to run them and was able to light it up in the after burner, which is quite awesome feeling the power and a bit frightful at the same time.
    This was my second flight was in 1989 and I was in the 10th.

  17. I hear a common thread, Ken. We made two attempts at 9 Gs and only made 8.5 each time. As he started to try a third time, I said no; 17 Gs in less than a minute was too much so we did our mach run about 200 feet, also, over the Med off the coast of Turkey and ruined some fishermen’s day. What a trip!

  18. I got my incentive flt in my F-4G when we were TDY to Tyndyll AFB..I am glad I can say I did but I would never do it again..I got sick as a dog and puked my guts out…We did a vertical climb on takeoff and then he rolled it to the right 3 times.. we were over the water so all I saw was blue on blue at one point could not tell which was sky and which was water..lol..But again I was glad I got the opportunity that most people do not get and that is to break the sound bearier and to feel what a fighter pilot feels during air to air battle..I give them big props for that…

  19. Hey Walt. Glenn “Louie” Mall here. Rick Huss saw Rambo that year and started calling everyone thisbo and thatbo. I remember this short notice incentive ride with you and Mikey. It was sometimes the 3rd or 4th sortie of the day for us. I don’t remember who was in my pit that day, but I will say I thoroughly enjoyed taking crew chiefs up. I always gave them all the stick time they wanted. It was amazing how hard Mx worked on those deployments. Especially when we were “going for the record” for number of sorties in a day. Big packages and complex sorties in the morning and usually intercepts and incentive rides later on. Mikey and I were classmates at MacDill in the B Course. He and I were close friends and he taught me way beyond the syllabus. He was already a captain and an F-4 WSO, so of course he knew more than any of us Lt’s. He also knew Europe since he had been at Spangdahlem his first assignment. He taught me to appreciate and respect the enlisted troops. I have passed that on to my son who is a Lt and new tanker pilot in the Guard. My son-in-law is flying F-15Es at RAF Lakenheath on his first assignment. He too knows who keeps him flying. Thanks for all your work!

  20. I remember the look on your face when you asked who was doing the briefing and Mike said that I was. Then he shrugged and said, “He who plans, briefs”. During the NATO TACEVAL I was in ops with nothing to do so I started planning missions with Ken Brown. I overheard the German inspectors saying, “How can we expect them to fight if rain and fog scares them so much?” Eskridge wound up Lead on “my” mission. I walked back into ops and wanted to know who picked the best goddammed IP all week. I had picked an Autobahn intersection.

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