The possibility of flight has captured my imagination since I was very young. Astronaut, pilot, then later gliding or hang gliding all caught my imagination and were the careers and hobbies dreams were made of.
So when I met Diane, I was very interested in her story. She taught me how to get a ride in an F-16 fighter in three easy steps.
Step 1 – Be selected as the first woman president of a Chamber of Commerce – ever.
Step 2 – Have the year that you are appointed as president also happen to fall upon the 100th anniversary of said chamber.
Step 3 – Make sure there’s an Air Force base in the same city where the chamber was founded.
Piece of cake!
Diane told me that once she was selected and approved to fly, she had to attend a couple of classes on the base to teach her a few things about flying in an F-16. She also mentioned that one does not simply “go for a ride” in a plane like this, you have to accompany the pilot on a training mission.
They took off and went into a steep climb and quickly reached altitude, then headed west across the valley toward the Oquirh mountain range. The first part of the training exercise was low altitude flying in rough terrain. So the pilot took her down and followed the contours of the mountains along the mountain range toward the south.
He then took her through the high G-force portion of the program. Diane told me how hard she had to work to stay conscious as the plane reached 9.8 G’s. She described the tunnel of darkness that started to envelope her, and how every part of her wanted to be sick. But through the training she had received, and great effort she was able to stay conscious. The effort left her exhausted, but there was more to come.
They then moved out toward the west desert for target practice. She said they hit their target, turned east and headed back to the base. All in all, she was in the plane for about an hour.
Then she said the most interesting thing to me, the guy who has wanted to do this since he was a little boy. She told me that talking about it is much more fun than actually doing it! The plane is so responsive, and the forces it puts on the body so extreme, she was kind of glad when the mission was finally over and she could get out.
Diane had the chance to live my dream. It was so great to talk to her about the experience, and many others that she’s had in her life full of adventure. I’m happy I had the chance to relive it with her for a few minutes.