Dear Fellow Hang Glider & Paraglider Pilots,
This is the story of an opportunity that came my way that even though it's over, I find very hard to believe has actually happened.
In the summer of '96 a NASA Test Pilot , Mark Stucky had asked if I was interested in doing some tandem intro lessons in a hang glider with 3 of his fellow NASA Aerospace Research Pilots and asked what I would charge for it. The flights never did come about probably due to the test pilots' busy schedule.
Several months later (spring of '97) a former hang gliding student of mine who was in the Air Force Test Pilot School asked if I was interested in taking up several of her classmates as part of a "qualitative evaluation" (qual flights) in exchange for some T38 time. I believe her reasons for having the pilots try hang gliding was that it would be interesting and beneficial to the test pilot training curriculum. The Air Force sent out a scouting team of 2 of their pilots to investigate the service I provide and returning with a good impression started the process of red tape. When the NASA boys heard of the Air Force and their plans they too offered to me a similar deal but it would be in an F18. I agreed (obviously) and in only a few short days NASA had three of their finest out for their hang glider training. The three pilots (all fellow research pilots of Mark) were an F-18 pilot Jim Smolka, an SR-71 pilot Rogers Smith, and a former space shuttle commander and now research pilot, Gordon Fullerton.
So in late June of '97 it was my turn to get some airtime and instruction from NASA and the following chapters outline my day as an F-18 pilot. This opportunity was extremely precious to me as it would to almost anyone with a thirst for flight so I have written a chronology of the day with the hopes to share the flavor and some details with those who also sometimes feel the need for speed but who will likely not get to experience such a thrill.