Staying in Touch with My Inner Top Gun

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.

You may also like:

“The helicopter is evidence of how man’s imagination can be given physical form.” ~Wheeler, Howard A.

Come Be Part of the Sky – My First Airplane Pilot Lesson

We Flew with the Other Eagles, Over the Grand Canyon, with Papillion Helicopter Tours

102 thoughts on “Staying in Touch with My Inner Top Gun

  1. I knew Anaheim offered many high tech forms of entertainment. Now I am most pleased (as a former sail plane pilot and skydiver) to find out about this simulator open to the public. Hey, don’t you know? Men never REALLY grow up. If they did, we would not have enough warm bodies to throw into quite so many wars, I suspect. We nurture; they slap each other down. Now, if MY husband had been the one doing the shooting me down six times, he would have just shrugged afterwards and said, “But, honey, I was just trying to teach you somethings!” Yeah, right! So pleased you had that photographing friend along to enable us to share some of your experience on this blog!


  2. Lesley, you haven’t tried scuba diving as yet. Your enthusiasm for life is a breath of fresh air. You should meet my daughter, who has won numerous medals at the USPC Skydiving National Championship. She once was a partner in Skydive Houston. Now, she is running marathons.

    Too bad they don’t let women in the Navy Seals . . . I bet you would have made a good one.


  3. Sounds like a lot of fun! I’ve flown a small plane before but have never experienced a fighter jet. How awesome! And to do it while you’re pregnant? …I’m in awe 🙂


  4. Now, if only someone could invent a pregnancy simulator for a man, while experiencing the flight simulator for the F-16, then we’d really get a handle on the ultimate experience from your point of view 🙂



  6. Leslie! I can’t stop thinking about your post. You really gave it your awe! While out on my run this evening, I tried to imagine trying the same. Where did you find the courage? I once took trapeze lessons from former French circus stars. But that was only 17 feet. And there was a net!! Enjoy the week! And Bravo! ~Theadora


  7. I have to ask, it is going to sound strange, but dog-gone it, I am gonna do this anyway.

    Do you have some testosterone in your blood?

    What an adventure, good piece, thanks.



  8. I will leave the flying to you and other career pilots. I’m happy to limit mine to trips to see family and imagination. Very best of wishes to you in your pregnancy and beginnings of motherhood. If I remember your mom post well, you had an excellent role model.


  9. Thanks for liking my cobbler recipe at The Blakery. Looking forward to reading more of your adventure. I can’t find your twitter alias–are you on twitter?


    • I actually don’t use twitter. Ironically enough, I’ve never really liked the idea of social networking or social media. I started blogging about 4.5 months ago because I was pregnant and not working and it quickly became like a drug for me. I was addicted!



  10. Good grief, you’re like a superhero or action move star.

    Have you wrestled anacondas in the amazon or climbed everest yet? what are you waiting for?

    Good luck with the flying. That’s amazing


    • Thanks Lance.

      No anacondas yet but a couple of pythons in Vegas, and I’m waiting until my daughter is at least 3 months old before I conquer Everest… 😉

      Thanks for reading and stay in touch,



  11. You always have the most incredible adventures that you share with us on this blog. I know I would probably be nervous to be up in a place like this, but you certainly do so with ease and encourage me as well. Great post


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