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Posted: 5/29/2003 11:34:12 PM EDT
> On a Wing and a Prayer by Rick Reilly (Note: Rick > Reilly writes for Sports Illustrated) > > Now this message for America's most famous athletes: > > Someday you may be invited to fly in the back-seat of > one of your country's most powerful fighter jets. > Many of you already have -- John Elway, John Stockton, > Tiger Woods to name a few. If you get this > opportunity, let me urge you, with the greatest > sincerity... Move to Guam. Change your name. Fake > your own death. Whatever you do, do not go. > > I know. The U.S. Navy invited me to try it. I was > thrilled. I was pumped. > > I was toast! I should've known when they told me my > pilot would be Chip (Biff) King offighter Squadron 213 > at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach. > > Whatever you're thinking a Top Gun named Chip (Biff) > King looks like, triple it. He's about six-foot, tan, > ice-blue eyes, wavy! surfer hair, finger-crippling > handshake -- the kind of man who wrestles dyspeptic > alligators in his leisure time. If you see this man, > run the other way. > > Fast. > > Biff King was born to fly. His father, Jack King, was > for years the voice of NASA missions. ("T-minus 15 > seconds and counting...." Remember?). Chip would > charge neighborhood kids a quarter each to hear his > dad. Jack would wake up from naps surrounded by > nine-year-olds waiting for him to say, "We have a > liftoff." > > Biff was to fly me in an F-14D Tomcat, a ridiculously > powerful $60 million weapon with nearly as much thrust > as weight, not unlike Colin Montgomerie. > > I was worried about getting airsick, so the night > before the flight I asked Biff if there was something > I should eat the next morning. "Bananas," he said. > "For the potassium?" I asked. "No," Biff said, > "because they taste about the same coming up as they > do going down." > > The next morning, out on the tarmac, I had on my > flight suit with my name sewn over the left breast. > (No call sign -- like Crash or Sticky or Leadfoot - > but, still, very cool.) I carried my helmet in the > crook of my arm, as Biff had instructed. If ever in > my life I had a chance to nail Nicole Kidman, that was > it. > > A fighter pilot named Psycho gave me a safety briefing > and then fastened me into my ejection seat, which, > when employed, would "egress" me out of the plane at > such a velocity that I would be immediately knocked > unconscious from the G-forces. Just as I was thinking > about aborting the flight, the canopy closed over me, > and Biff gave the ground crew a thumbs-up. In minutes > we were firing nose up at 600 mph. We leveled out and > then canopy-rolled over another F-14. Those 20 > minutes were the rush of my life. > > Unfortunately, the ride lasted 80 minutes. It was > like being on the roller coaster at Six Flags. Only > without rails. We did barrel rolls, snap rolls,loops, > yanks and banks. We dived, rose and dived again, > sometimes with a vertical velocity of 10,000 feet per > minute. We chased another F-14, and it chased us. We > broke the speed of sound. Sea was sky and sky was > sea. > > Flying at 200 feet we did 90-degree turns at 550 mph, > creating a G-force of 6.5, which is to say I felt as > if 6.5 times my body weight was smashing against me. > > And I egressed the bananas. I egressed the pizza from > the night before. And the lunch before that. I > egressed a box of Milk Duds from the sixth grade. > > I made Linda Blair look polite. Because of the G's, I > was egressing stuff that did not even want to be > egressed. I went through not one airsick bag, but > two. Biff said I passed out. Twice. I was coated in > sweat. At one point, as we were coming in upside down > in a banked curve on a mock bombing target and the G's > were Flattening me like a tortilla and I was in and > out of consciousness, I realized I was the first > person in history to throw down. > > I used to know cool. Cool was Elway throwing a > touchdown pass, or Greg Norman making a five-iron > bite. > > But now I really know cool. Cool is guys like Biff, > men with cast-iron stomachs and Freon nerves. I > wouldn't go up there again for Derek Jeter's black > book, but I'm glad Biff does every day, and for less a > year than a rookie reliever makes in a home stand. > > A week later, when the spins finally stopped, Biff > called. He said he and the fighter pilots had the > perfect call sign for me. Said he'd send it on a > patch for my flight suit. > > What is it? I asked... "Two Bags."
Link Posted: 5/30/2003 7:17:34 AM EDT
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