Fighter Pilot for a Day – Top Gun in Scottsdale?

Extra 300L aircraft D-EXFF 2009 03
Upside down is fun – but not really easy on the belly.
[Sept. 15 Update: An alert Twitter user (Yes, I still refuse to say “Tweep”) pointed out an article on Aero-News.net claiming that Top Gun Fighter Combat Adventures is a scam. In short, it sells Groupon offers, but doesn’t have a plane or facility to its name. I will follow up with more info as I dig it up. But since the rest of this post is about the coolness of air-combat maneuvers, I’ll leave it up.]

Groupon often lets me down. I don’t want weekly colon hydrotherapy or enough body waxing offers to be completely hairless for the rest of my life.

But sometimes, Groupon tips me off to something interesting. The latest example: Air combat at Top Gun Fighter Combat Adventures. The chance to be a fighter pilot for a day.

Top Gun at Scottsdale Municipal Airpark gives anyone – even those without previous flying experience – the chance to experience air combat in a real airplane. This isn’t the only place in Arizona where you can do this. I wrote about Fighter Combat International last year on Yahoo! Voices. I think Top Gun’s location is better - on the cusp of north Scottsdale and its wealthy residents. It’s also closer to the upscale resorts and golf courses – vacation is a great time to play fighter pilot.

And a Groupon deal starting at $399 (for 40 minutes of flight time) opens the proverbial canopy to more people.

I’ve never gotten to dogfight. But I’ve flown in the back seat of a World War II-era fighter-trainer and learned first-hand what air combat maneuvering feels like for a fighter pilot. (Be sure to read the link – the story has a twist.)

Even 30 minutes – so short a time on the ground! – will seem like an eternity. If you think a regional jet is small … even if you’ve flown in a Cessna 172 … nothing is like watching the horizon spin. And keep in mind – you’ll be in a propeller-driven airplane flying just a few hundred miles per hour. Imagine being a fighter pilot in the cockpit of a jet that can fly twice the speed of sound. After just a half-hour of rolls, loops and high-g turns, you will emerge from the cockpit sweaty, wrung out and unsteady. You won’t be able to think about eating. I promise, though, that you’ll look back on it as one of the most sensational half-hour slices of your life.