My F-16 flight — one year later

Exactly one year ago, on June 7, 2019, I flew in the backseat of an F-16 of the US Air Force Thunderbirds air demonstration team. I got the opportunity because my omega tau podcast fits well with the Thunderbirds’ STEM outreach activities.

I have been in love with the F-16 since I was a child, so this flight was a really big deal for me. June 7 last year really wants the best day of my life until then, and, as I speculated in the podcast episode, it might also be the best day
going forward.

One year later, this suspicion holds true, at least so far: the last year certainly did not bring a better experience. It almost feels like I got the opportunity just in time, before the world changed. With the limitations due to Covid-19, I would obviously not be able to travel to the US for the flight. In addition, most US air shows have been canceled, and the Thunderbirds instead flew these America Strong low-level formation flights over major US cities (check out this video). I am not sure to what degree they still do flights with civilians in this context. Of course things will return to normal at some point, but I’m still extremely happy that it worked out last year.

Of course I’m not at all the only person to get this opportunity, and other formats that do STEM outreach get to fly as well. I recently came across this video by Smarter Every Day. The host, Destin, flew with the Thunderbirds as well, and he produced a very nice video that is appropriately geeky and not full of I-am-so-cool-because-I-survived-9gs-swagger. I highly recommend you watch it!

For me, the video brought back the experience quite vividly, because many of the same people I met in Fort Wayne are in the video: Ned, Cory and of course Jason, my pilot. And just like me, Destin also struggled with putting on the g-suit on the flight line :-)

At this point, like everyone else, I am looking forward to a more normal world, one in which travel is possible again and I will be able to restart podcast-related travels. While I probably won’t be able to top the F-16 experience, there’s still lots of very cool places to visit and things to do. Just doing remote phone interviews on “theory” topics really doesn’t cut it.

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