Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
*UPDATE* - Brianna sent me a picture of Olivia.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
This week, as if in answer to years of boyhood dreaming, I had the unique opportunity to fly in one of these planes.
The plane, a SNJ-5, belongs to Air Group One, the San Diego Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, a non-profit group dedicated to maintaining and showing World War II planes. They offer rides out of Gillespie Field year-round by appointment, but the opportunity will be readily available at this weekend’s air show. The cost is $295, which, considering maintenance, fuel and the experience itself, isn’t too steep.
I talked to my pilot, Col. Jack Draper, whose call sign is “Ripper,” ahead of time and he let me know of the possibility of trying out a few aerobatic maneuvers, if I was up to it and the weather was right. The boy in me lit up. It was a few hours later that the adult in me tapped that boy on the shoulder and discussed the very real probability of throwing up. I didn’t eat anything the morning of my flight.
I arrived at Gillespie and met Jack. He told me that the plane was used as the final step in training fighter pilots before getting the real thing. It essentially has two cockpits, one in back of the other, for training purposes. I got situated in the back.
Sitting in the cockpit, I was struck by how something so complex could look so simple. It was all metal bars and levers.
I was strapped in to a parachute, then the harness for the seat itself and was shown where the “sick sacks” were. Before we took to the air I checked and double-checked. I took one out to see how fast I could get to it.
Flying in one of these planes is quite an experience. You feel the rumble of the engine and you smell the fuel. It’s almost as if the plane’s vibrations send you drifting back in time. You can almost physically feel what a pilot flying in World War II felt. The emotions, I’m sure, are much different.
As we flew out to an unpopulated area Jack asked if I was up for a loop. Trying desperately to hide any doubts in my voice I said, “S-s-sure!”
We dove down, pulled back up and around we went. The pressure was incredible. As we finished the maneuver I reached for the “sick sack,” but it was unnecessary. Surprisingly, I was fine. So, Jack took me on a simulated bombing run, followed by a corkscrew. The whole experience was utterly amazing and a testament not only to the brave people who fought in these planes, but also to the engineers and builders. I now have even more respect for them than before.
For your own taste of history, head to the air show. A ride in the SNJ would be the perfect Father’s Day gift. I know I’m going to be saving my money for another flight next year.