Negative Ghostrider, The Pattern is Full

A couple of things: first, Storybook Beginning is now available at the TinCaps’ team stores and online. I helped work on it, I’ve seen the finished product, and it’s good. If you’re a big-time fan of the team or our town, you should buy one.

Secondly, the Roy Halladay/Cliff Lee/10 prospects trade is intriguing and I’ll tell you why on Friday.

Thirdly, the photos and video of our visit to the Air National Guard base in Fort Wayne have been declassified by the Pentagon and Lieutenant Pete Mitchell. It was like the best elementary-school field trip you’ve ever seen, except I’m 25 years old. Here’s what happened.

Just like in your favorite aviation movie, the pilots of the 122nd Fighter Wing have callsigns. Our guide’s callsign was Spades. The group as a whole is known as the Blacksnakes, and they have a mascot named Tony. He’s a real, live black snake. At this point, we decided Tony Desplaines would be nicknamed “Blacksnake” and everyone else in our office would need to figure out their own callsign. We found out later that most callsigns come from the first stupid thing someone says in their aviation career.

We went out to the runway to watch four F-16s take off. The ground shook under us and it was still loud even with earplugs in.

From there, we went in and checked out all the equipment the pilots wear in the plane. It’s pretty unbelievable how much stuff you can tie onto a flight suit. They let one of us get into the cockpit, and the general consensus was that it would be funniest to put the biggest one of us in there. Enter, Michael Limmer. The photo was taken right about the time he seriously started wondering if the canopy was going to hit him in the head as it closed (it didn’t).

Then we all went over to the place where they fix the jet engines if there are any problems. This particular day they were testing an engine before they put it back into a plane. We got to stand about 100 feet away while they throttled the engine about as high as it would go. It was so loud, we had to wear in-ear earplugs AND the earphones like you’d see from a die-hard NASCAR fan at a race.

After that, it was over to the hangar to check out some of the planes up close. At that point, someone decided Johnny needed to direct some planes like an air-traffic controller. And some planes were just about to land! Off he went, and apparently everything went OK.

Finally, we went to the flight simulator and Allan Wertheimer and I got to pretty much play video games in the most realistic simulator of all time. The number of levers and buttons was ridiculous and it’s pretty crazy to think how good pilots have to be just to keep a plane in the air, let alone accomplish missions. Spades told us when the pilots go out on a training mission, it takes them about five minutes to go from Fort Wayne to southern Illinois. This made me think we need to change the TinCaps’ mode of transportation from buses to F-16s.

Anyway, all those years of playing old-school flying video games came in handy when I managed to land the simulator plane safe and sound. No cameras were allowed in the simulating area, but let’s just say my flight experience left me pondering a career flying fighter jets and wearing enormous aviator sunglasses if broadcasting doesn’t work out.

Most importantly, the question was asked, “How realistic was Top Gun?” After the guy stopped laughing, he said it was about as realistic as Allan Jackson being able to waterski while still keeping his cowboy hat on. In fact, Goose’s death is impossible because the seat in an F-16 can’t eject until the canopy flies off, so he couldn’t have hit his head/got caught on it. This upset me. Goose was a good guy. Let’s move on.

All in all, the visit to the Air National Guard base was fun and informative all at the same time. I know the pilots had fun seeing a cartoonish mascot on the runway when they landed and we had a great time as well. Our guide, Spades, was getting ready to go overseas for duty so best of luck to him and everybody else over there.

That’s it for today! Talk to you Friday!

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