These Flight Schools Across the US Bring Fighter-Jet Fantasies to Life – Robb Report
, 2022-11-19 14:10:50
Tony Scott’s 1986 film Top Gun kindled many an adolescent’s fighter-jet obsession, which no doubt came rushing back thanks to this summer’s sequel starring a youthfully 60-year-old Tom Cruise still turning and burning. Thankfully, select flight schools can indulge the fantasy with everything from a $30,000 full-afterburner ride in an F-104 Starfighter, capable of more than Mach 2, to an FAA-type rating for a host of decommissioned warbirds.
Learning how to captain one of these apex predators involves a highly specialized coterie of flight instructors and hardware—but first, naturally, a private pilot’s license. Rick Svetkoff’s Starfighters International may not be able to teach Cessna 172 pilots how to fully operate the F-104 in a short window, but the pilot will come away understanding its aerodynamics, thrust, lift and, of course, the nearly unfathomable speed.
“We can outrun, outclimb and out-accelerate an F-16 all day long,” says Svetkoff, who flies in controlled airspace above NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The $29,500 curriculum provides a day of ground training (including critical instruction on how to use flight and survival gear, engage the ejection seat and jettison the canopy) and an airborne session with vertical departure, barrel rolls and—for those with the stomach—high-G maneuvers.
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