What’s it like to suit up in a g-suit and oxygen mask to fly in a supersonic F-16 fighter jet? Photographer Blair Bunting found out when he got the rare and thrilling opportunity to fly with the United States Air Force Thunderbirds. He wrote about the hour-long experience:
No sooner than I could start my breathing he pulls the jet in a straight vertical climb and we scream away from the Earth. Where I could once see my friends and family cheering on the side of the runway, only a moment later we are punching through the clouds as the world curves. I am speechless, as any words that I could write down would never do the view justice. In short, it epitomizes every essence of the word “beautiful” in its most primitive form. As the pilot pulls jet from vertical to inverted I could breath, but was breathless.
Leveled out, we head north to a range where the pilot can show me “what the jet could do” as if the takeoff wasn’t life changing enough… At this point I just kicked back and tried to fit my smile behind the mask. With no effort whatsoever, the jet tears through the sound barrier. I am sitting in peaceful bliss as the world breaks behind us in a 1000 mile per hour combustion that is heard for miles around.
In the archives: a zero gravity flight with ping pong balls and more videos about speed, including this footage of the Thunderbirds flying in 1959 and Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking jump from the edge of space.