Can I get a ride on a fighter jet?
September 21, 2016 12:13 PM   Subscribe

I am in the Pensacola, Florida area for a few weeks. As a major aviation nerd, I am going to go to the NAS there, as well as all the flight museums in the area. I will of course be watching a Blue Angels practice. Is there any chance I could get any other behind the scenes access? A ride on a fighter jet? Anything else to make my little nerdy heart go pitter patter?

I'm a civilian with no criminal record and have passed a Texas background check for light security work; I know my odds are small, but metafilter is magic, so... worth asking :D

posted by Jacen to Travel & Transportation around Pensacola, FL (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Unfortunately, I don't know of anything specific. However, here's what I would do: go to the local air strip and ask around. I THINK that they have an aerobatic school there, but the website's not working right now. At the very least, you could go mess around in a Decathlon for an hour - the flight school would be happy to do that for you.

When you're back in Texas, keep an eye out for when The Collings Foundation or CAF AirPower Squadron are in town. Looks like Collings is finishing up the year in Florida in early November, but they have a facility in Houston where you could get a ride in an F-4 Phantom if you have five figures to spare. AirPower will be in Lubbock and Dallas through October.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:44 PM on September 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

What backseatpilot said.

Getting a ride in a jet fighter - even a trainer like an L-39 - is very expensive if people don't refer to you as "Congressman" - mostly because the operating costs are prohibitive. There are joyride places that will do it but they are - again - very, very expensive.

Want an aviation thrill? Call around to a couple of flight schools and tell them you'd like an introductory aerobatics lesson. That should be plenty heart-pitter-pattering and much easier on your wallet.

Trust me.
posted by Thistledown at 12:50 PM on September 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

When I read your headline, this is what I was reminded off. Would give you an idea of the cost involved.
posted by TrinsicWS at 1:42 PM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't know if they do this anymore, but if you have connections with someone on the base, they may be able to schedule a hands-on demonstration of one of their flight simulators. Many years ago, a friend from church who was a flight instructor at the local AF base arranged that for my father and me.
posted by davcoo at 4:47 PM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

It costs 24,000 an hour to fly the F-18. Doubtless more for the Blue Angels. My uncle by marriage's dad was an AF Col who used to fly for SAC and he retired to Pensacola. The Blue Angels found out and got his address. Practice began with a low flying run over his dad's house.

The practice is cool, but when I saw it they do a lot higher up than the performances.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:39 PM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I live(d) just across the state line in Alabama, was heavily involved in AFJROTC in high school (I know the base is Navy, trust me, I know), had many connections with folks in Navy units along with various and sundry recruiters, and even went to a leadership camp at Keesler AFB NCO Academy that included a short hop out over the gulf in one of the WC-130s that the Hurricane Hunters fly out of, sure it's in the other direction in Mississippi but you get the meaning, and I never heard of anyone finagling a flight in a jet while I ran fairly deeply in those near-military circles.

I think you're out of luck if you want to fly in a for real fighter jet unless you have connections that you haven't mentioned here or a boatload of cash that you're willing to burn.

Apropos of nothing, my dad did almost get to fly in one coming back from Puerto Rico in the 50's when he got notice that a family member had passed and he was given leave on short notice. Backseat in some jet (I don't recall the designation) was the only seat and if, as he puts it, a damn officer hadn't showed up at the last second and out ranked him on the priority seating he would have flown home from down there in style instead of in a 'flying boxcar'.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:51 PM on September 22, 2016

As a side note, the Blue Angles often practice offshore within sight of the beach out on Fort Morgan, AL, not sure the season but if they are practicing then folks will know and they will be out there nearly every day. I'm not sure if there's a way for you to find out but they'll be flying fast and low out there at some point if you're wiling to head over that way. The fort itself is great and is an amazing beach area if you like a bit of solitude (while it lasts that is) but I'm biased because I grew up and got hitched there. So, good luck!
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:54 PM on September 22, 2016

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