My longing to be in the sky introduced me to skydiving, bungee jumping, paragliding, para-sailing, helicopter touring, airplane piloting, and helicopter piloting, but at 29 weeks pregnant, my flight experiences would have to be put on hold… or so I thought! Flightdeck Air Combat Center in Anaheim, CA is a flight simulation center that gives civilians the opportunity to pilot fighter jets in actual cockpit simulators. On Sunday, January 8th, Darren and I, along with a great friend, Albert, and four other friendly participants, flew our own authentic F-16 flight simulators as we challenged each other in a dogfight. I experienced the challenge of aerial maneuvers at 600 knots, aircraft take-offs and landings, and the excitement of air-to-air combat all while housing my soon-to-be-born baby girl.
Flight-gear, training, and in-flight instruction were provided to ensure a challenging aviation-themed adventure. Our journey started with a military aviation flight suit and classroom instruction. It was reassuring to know that even if I forgot something critical to my flight, I could communicate with the Air Traffic Control Crew instantly. Although the instruction was a brief 20 minutes, I felt prepared to hop into the flight simulator and put my knowledge to the test.
Once inside the cockpit, I received a instrument and control orientation briefing and I realized I was behind the controls of a high performance military flight simulator. As the cover closed around me, I became immersed in the fighter pilot experience.
The 45 minutes of flight time included take-off, turn controls, dogfighting, and landing. The differences between men and women were highlighted as the women did a little less dogfighting and a little more crashing while the men were solely focused on taking others down! My loving, caring, gentle husband shot me out of the sky more than anyone else. I spent more time reactivating my weapons and getting back into the sky than actually shooting people down. He claims that he was unaware that the jet was mine, but I’m skeptical considering he shot me down 6 times. I would have happily returned the favor, though, if only I had been capable. His maneuvering and dogfighting capabilities were obviously superior and he deserves credit for his tact and skill, but he won’t be hearing it from me anytime soon. Even though I did worse than every other person in the dogfight and I only shot down one person, and it wasn’t even my husband, I was impressed with my landing skills and successfully landed each of my attempts.
The whole experience was challenging, adventurous, and eye-opening. I gained a new respect for fighter pilots and my passion for extreme flying was enhanced yet again.
Albert’s wife, Faith, enjoyed the “Officer’s Club”, an observation area where guests can view and listen to all of the action on 37″ video monitors. She saw a small version of what each pilot was seeing during their flight and was able to hear the interaction between the pilots and the Air Traffic Control Crew. It was great to have an observer follow our flight and snap some shots of our adventure. She may not have been in the cockpit like us, but she was able to participate in the experience.
The next time you are in Anaheim looking for something new to do, check out Flightdeck Air Combat Center. They offer a true-to-life aviation experience that gives everyone, even large, pregnant women, the chance to become a fighter pilot.
You can call (714) 937-1511 or check out their website to book your flights.
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