What did you do today? Oh I just did aerobatics in a T-6 Warbird around Mt. Baldy in California, topping out at 220 mph and 4 G’s. Just the typical Wednesday, right? That’s not even typical for an adrenaline junkie, but it way my afternoon. Today was freaking awesome. If you’d like a more humble Lesley, wait for the next post. If you want to hear about my epic adventure thanks to Cloud 9 Living and Aviator Flight Training…
I looked at all of the possible experiences available on Cloud 9 Living and flying in a T6 Warbird topped my list. I’d tried many of the other flight options but this one remained a mystery. I wondered, what is a T-6 Warbird? Is it like a fighter jet? How fast can it fly? Will it be extreme?
The description on Cloud 9 Living said:
Your experienced pilot will give you a personal peek into how fighter pilots of the 1940’s trained for their WWII careers.
Feel the G forces during your Warbird adventure flight as you carve up the sky with some high powered flying. Experience the unique sound, smell, and feel of a genuine supercharged fighter trainer.
Ok, ok. I was sold! This was for me. Key words hit me like “high powered flying” and “supercharged fighter trainer”.
I booked the experience two days ago and was able to get a flight today. I woke up at 7 am filled with anticipation. If my experiences with extreme flights in the past were any indication of how today was going to go, I could have one of the best adventures of my life.
I posted an update on Facebook and included a link to Aviator Flight Training. Within 30 minutes, the owner and my pilot for the day, Daniel, contacted me in a private message. He said, “It looks like I’ll be your pilot today. My cell is ‘***-***-****’. I’m looking forward to the flight!”
EEEEEEEEE! I was beaming with excitement. Not only was I going to fly in a Warbird for the first time, but the owner of the company was going to be my pilot. We chatted back and forth for a few minutes and I was counting the seconds on my watch.
I was ready to leave the house at 10 am even though the flight wasn’t for three hours. couldn’t stand the wait. I had to leave. The hour drive seemed like decades, but as I neared the foothills the beauty of snow-capped mountains took my mind of the creeping time.
I stopped for a bite to eat and marveled at my surroundings. I wanted to take photos for you but I opted not to because I couldn’t capture the magnitude of the mountains from the ground. Instead, I enjoyed the peaceful moment myself. The foothills were in the foreground and filled with greens dotted with the brightly colored roofs of the surrounding homes. In the backdrop, mountains jetted up to the sky. The snow was a stark contrast to the clear blue skies. I finished my lunch and drove to the airport.
Arriving an hour early is typical for me but I worried that it would be a hassle for the people at Aviator Flight Training. I called Daniel to let him know that I was at the gate. He asked a fellow pilot, Tim, to let me in and they both welcomed me with open arms.
They were laid-back and easy going. Daniel showed me around as Tim prepared the plane. I didn’t need to worry about paying or any financial transactions because it was all arranged through Cloud 9 Living.
Daniel gave me a flight suit, it was optional but I felt like I needed to go all in, and Tim asked if I wanted to get some pictures in front of the plane. I felt like Tom Cruise in Top Gun. I should have studied his posed outside the plane before going to the airport. I’ll keep that in mind for next time. At least I had my aviator glasses. I was ready.
Then, it was time to get in. Tim helped me get into the cockpit and strapped me in, including buckling my parachute in case something went wrong. It’s just a precaution, but as he explained what to do if the plane was going down, I listened with complete and utter fear. Would I actually be capable of pulling the handle, opening the hatch, and deploying my parachute in an emergency situation? It all seemed highly unlikely. Would I have time for all of that? That seemed highly unlikely as well. Oh well; I’d go down smiling. I took a deep breath and closed the window.
When we took off, it was immediately intense and way faster than I anticipated. I quickly snapped a photo with my phone and put it securely in my pocket. The GoPro would need to do the rest of the work. I was going to sit back and enjoy the ride. And scream my head off.
We flew toward the mountains and within minutes we were already doing barrel rolls. I’m glad I have the video footage because I still feel like it was all a dream.
We topped 220 mph and over 4 G’s. We flew through the mountains sideways and upside down. Most times, it was difficult to tell which way was up. The window was closed but I still felt completely free of obstructions. I could see everything, including the ground which felt extremely close at times. Thankfully, I didn’t feel free of obstructions around my body. I pulled the seat belt tighter and tighter until I could feel it pushing against my collar bone. It wasn’t uncomfortable; instead it made me feel safe. My fear was gone and I was on Cloud 9.
Daniel talked to me the whole time (well, when I wasn’t screaming or laughing) and his calmness was even more reassuring. I was confident in him and asked for more. I wanted to take it to the limit.
Surprisingly, I never feel sick in the air, regardless of how intense it is. Some people, like Darren, get sick from the spinning and the G’s. It’s unfortunate because he loves aerobatics. During my flight, I was reminded of how lucky I am to not feel motion sickness in the air. I could enjoy the thrill without the added stress.
When we landed, I was shaking with adrenaline. After Tim helped me out of the plane, I hugged Daniel. He had given me one of the greatest rides of my life and I will forever remember his name and associate it with this adventure. He has the type of career that has a lasting impact on his customers.
Daniel, if you’re reading this, thank you! I’m addicted and want to get up in the air again. I think we should give that biplane of yours a try.
I drove home with a smile still plastered on my face. My cheeks were hurting from non-stop smiling for so long. This was my first adventure of the year with Cloud 9 Living but it won’t be my last. I’m already looking for which adventure I’d like to experience next.