Saturday, October 18, 2008

Flying in a Jet Fighter - BAC167 StrikeMaster Mk.88

Went for a jet fighter flight in an ex-NZ air-force fighter / bomber - BAC167 Strike Master. While it was a mere 20 minutes introductory flight from Australia Jet Adventures, it did come with many aerobatic moves - aileron turn, derry turn, barrel roll, loop, inverted flight, wing over, hesitation turn, victory roll and combination manoeuvres. I experienced between 0G and 3G and saw the horizon turn around and around... If you feel sick just reading this, imagine how I felt in the cockpit.

In the pre-flight briefing, I learnt to use the sick bag - where to put it so I can get to it very quickly. I learnt how to put on and take off the helmet, slim line parachute, how to operate the face mask and release the parachute, seat belts and the canopy in the event of an emergency. But the most important is to how to take off the mask if I need to puke. Apparently, the mask can not be cleaned completely once I fill it up with my breakfast or dinner from the night before... Therefore, getting it off quickly is crucial.

The plane is a BAC167 Strike Master, nicknamed Blunty where I sit side-by-side with the pilot and I am pretty close to the tip of the plane. Being a much smaller plane than passenger jets I am used to and closer to the front and speed, I thought it would be quite scary. We did get off the ground in just a couple of seconds, however it wasn't that scary until Darren starting doing aerobatic manoeuvres. If you are prone to motion sickness, one good tip is to look straight ahead. Because it is a jet fighter, there is little turbulence and the brain is not fast enough to react and cause nausea. However, the thrill factor is substantially discounted unless you look around (and see the horizon spinning around). I did and thank God I didn't puke up there.

The pilot Darren executed each manoeuvre with great precision and enthusiasm. I went quiet a little bit after the wing-over (basically turning 360 degrees clockwise and then immediately 720 degrees anticlockwise. Felt like I was in a front loader washing machine... There was nothing to hold on to although I was strapped down by at least 6 seat belts. I was moving around quite a bit and thought my helmet will hit Darren's at times. I imagine I must have turned from pink to red to white and may be green... Of course I couldn't throw in the towel and ask Darren to head back to base because of a little nausea. The whole experience is definitely the most thrilling in my life! Thank you very much Computer Associates for the voucher. I was actually a fairly breezy day but I found myself completely covered with sweat by the end.

This picture gives you a little idea of me in the cockpit. I was sitting on the RHS (bottom) and wearing the same helmet as the passenger in this picture.

I struggled for a long time thinking whether and what I should post here because I only have a few pics of the plane and no pics of myself at all. There are a fair bit of security restrictions since 9-11. Understandably, safety is a big deal as well. No loose items are allowed in the plane hence this photographer's hands were tied. Thank God that there were 3 video-cams in the cockpit. I am still waiting for the video to arrive. Thank you Jared for taking a few pics of me with the plane. You can see them in my wife's blog.

This picture must be one of the worst pictures I have ever taken. You can only see a little fin on top of the plane. LOL. I was very keen to photograph the plane in the air. It is hard because it flies very high so I could only shoot it taking off. I got really close to the side of the runway.... too close... I've been to airshow a couple of times (and love it!).. but the noise from the Rolls Royce Viper 535 engine was so deafening I was literally blown away by it. One thing I learnt from this is how very well the canopy blocks out noise in the cockpit.

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