BK -- Top Gun

This is a story about a flight I took in a jet fighter. As you can see by the picture above, I am now going out with Kelly McGillis because she swoons over Top Gun pilots like me.

I strolled into the Whistle Stop Ale House after work on Friday to meet up with Glenn Cirlincione for a couple ales. Glenn was sitting at a table with three other people. There was Jim, a Whistle Stop regular whom I knew, and two other guys who Glenn introduced as Dave and George.

About a month ago, Glenn told me about these two pilots he had met at the Whistle Stop. He met George when he overheard a conversation about aerobatics and asked George if he was the pilot doing stunts over his house the previous weekend. George said he was the guy and Glenn's interest in airplanes and flying sparked further conversation.

George introduced Glenn to Dave and the conversation turned to Dave's Yugoslavian built Soko Galeb jet fighter. Before the end of the evening, Glenn had arranged for a guest flight in the jet. Glenn went on the flight and had the time of his life. When he told me about it, I remember thinking about how cool that would be. "Maybe some day", I thought.

Meanwhile, back at the Whistle Stop……

As I sat down with Glenn, Jim, Dave, and George, the conversation quickly turned to flying. George and Dave jointly own a Russian Yak stunt plane. George was really into it. Then the Soko Galeb came up in the conversation. I told Dave that I'd really love to take a ride in that puppy, to which he replied, "How about Sunday?" I said, "I'm there!"

Highway to the Danger Zone

Dave and his toyI met Dave at the Aeroflight office at Boeing Field at 2:00 PM Sunday. Dave keeps his Soko at Aeroflight and his two propeller planes, a 1955 Beach Bonanza and the Russian Yak, at Renton Municipal Airport. George was also there.

Dave spent about a half hour preparing the jet for flight. He cleaned the canopy, checked vital fluids, and other things of which I had no idea.

The Soko Galeb fighter was built in Mostar, Yugoslavia (now Bosnia) in the 1960's. It was used quite extensively by the Serbian Air Force in the Balkan War and several hundred are still in service. It is powered by a single Rolls Royce turbojet engine mounted in the fuselage. There are two air intakes, one on each side of the forward fuselage. There are two seats in the cockpit, one behind the other. "Galeb" means "Seagull" in Serbian. There are only six Galebs in the U.S.

Dave sat me in the rear seat and went over the controls and instrumentation. He pointed out the controls to be used in an emergency such as the canopy release, the seat release, and the parachute ripcord. Dave said, "Don't touch these unless you see my canopy eject and see me jump out of the jet." I did not touch them. The instruments he pointed out were the altimeter, the air speed indicator, and the glamorous G force meter.

Glenn stopped by to see me off and take a couple hero shots. Dave decided that this would be a good time to give the jet a brake job with an outfit at Tacoma Industrial Airport next to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The plan was to have George fly the Bonanza to Tacoma to pick us up after the flight.

A Need for Speed

After everything was ready, we buckled up, started the engine, and taxied out onto the runway. The takeoff was super smooth. Smoother than a commercial jet due to the compact size, and smoother than light propeller plane due to the heavy weight. Another interesting thing was how quiet it was. This is because the engine, and the noise it emitted, were behind us. We headed for the Olympic Mountains. Within ten minutes, we were in the heart of the Olympics, somewhere between The Brothers and Mt. Olympus. Then the fun began.

The first maneuver was an aileron roll. Then we did a 2500 ft. barrel roll, followed by a loop and a high speed attack maneuver. When the top speed was attained (about 500 mph), Dave pulled up and converted that speed into altitude; about 5000 ft. in a matter of seconds. Another aerobatic maneuver Dave performed was a ½ Cuban 8. During these maneuvers we reached up to 4 G's. After a final maneuver, an Immelmann, we landed in Tacoma. I could now breathe.

The photo collage below shows the attitude of the jet during a number of the maneuvers.

Photo Collage