As a skydiver, I’ve jumped out of hundreds of planes over the past 12 years, but I had never flown one, so I was extremely excited when I found out that we would be flying stunt planes. When I was told that the first challenge would be a G-force test, I began my research on maneuvers and G-LOC (G-force Induced Loss Of Consciousness). Basically, as the G-force increases, the blood moves away from your brain and causes you to black out. I found a straining trick that pilots use where you tense the muscles in your body and take short breaths to help keep blood flowing to your brain. I knew that Ed wouldn’t have that information, and it helped me win the first challenge.
Ed’s expert pilot was Rocket, and I was with Baron. Both amazing pilots and just plain cool guys. Pretty much the second we left the ground, Baron, in his thick German accent, said, “Marcus, do you vant to take control of das plane?” Heck yeah, I did. At one point, I asked Baron what the plane was capable of, to which he replied, “Ohhh, so you vant to see vat dis plane can do, do you?” Ummmm… We pulled a reverse G maneuver and some other complete craziness that nearly made my eyeballs shoot out of my head. Anyway… I had an idea what to expect, but being in the plane, forced down into the seat at over 5 G’s with complete tunnel vision, totally changed that. The only thing on my mind at that moment was to continue breathing. I felt like that in several of the high performance maneuvers.
Baron gave me advice to look at a fixed point outside of the plane, and that really helped me to stay focused and alert. It’s amazing how quickly you can become disoriented when the plane is upside down in a spin. What also helped both Ed and me was getting to see each other do the maneuvers. I researched them, and understood what I needed to do and how they should look, but experiencing and actually performing the maneuvers in the air was way more beneficial than reading about them. I was a little worried that Ed’s motion sickness would get the better of him, but he pushed through and we were able to complete the challenges.
What you all didn’t get to see was that before we could start doing maneuvers, we had to clear the city and fly over the ocean. Unless specifically approved, stunts and aerobatics can’t be performed over populated areas. Being over the ocean made it a little more difficult to find reference points when doing the challenges, and although the planes and pilots were extremely safe and well-trained, the thought of ending up in the water with sharks did cross my mind. I was also surprised at how difficult it was at times to locate Ed in the other plane. As you spread apart to give the other plane plenty of room for loops and rolls, you realize that the plane becomes a small dot in the sky if it’s not right next to you. Using the radios and a smoke trail helped out a few times to get us back in formation.
By the time we got to dogfight, I felt pretty confident with my flying skills. I focused on Ed’s plane, decided where I wanted to be, then my hands just kind of reacted and took the plane that way naturally. So much fun and adrenaline pumping! The stunt plane experience definitely left me craving more flight time.