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F-16: The Ride of a Lifetime

photographed by Blair Bunting

The truest appreciation for science and art lives only in the experience. While my professional respect and novice understanding of physics tells me that I would know what G-Forces entail, the fact of the matter is that I had no idea…

For many, including myself, just the call to do a photoshoot of an F-16 fighter jet would make for a great day, but being offered a ride in one, well that makes for a great honor. I can still remember the call telling me that I needed to clear my schedule and see my doctor for flight approval, my ride had been approved. Now to measure said impact we need a constant…. in this case I hate going to the doctor’s office. Whether I am in need of help or just dropping off medical records, I do not like to be there. However, give me a paper that has a checklist for whether or not I would survive an ejection seat and I will gladly get a physical (or in this case two).

F-16

I would normally say something to the extent of “fast forward a week”, but the truth is knowing what lied ahead, time went by so damn slow. Even while on vacation with my wife, sitting on the beach in Kauai the flight was always in the back of my mind.  I had tried to convince myself that I had an idea of what it was going to be like and how I was going to react, but in reality I hadn’t a clue. The ability to sleep at night ended with one week left until the flight, even though I had been on a very rigorous workout schedule in the attempt to stay conscious through the G’s.

The day before takeoff I had to report to the base and go through another physical combined with breathing training and then it was off to egress. For those of you that don’t know what egress is (like me), it is a short way of saying, “the plane is going down and this is how to stay alive.” During the class I can distinctly remember the hypothetic world of “can you imagine” transforming into the reality of “if you have to.” Example being, “If you have to eject, here is how to check out the parachute and call for search and rescue.” Yeah, things got real. From there I got fitted for my G-suit and then retired for a night of futile attempts of getting any sleep.

The morning briefing was short and before I knew it I found myself sitting in the backseat of an F-16 shaking my head wondering how the hell I ever ended up in this place. I still could not believe what had transpired to make this happen and all I could think about was the many men and women that have served this country and deserved this flight more than me.

Confident that I would not remember the whole flight we had cameras installed on the HUD so that if I were to pass out from the G’s or get sick all over the place, you the viewers would get a good laugh at the expense of some of my pride. So without any further adieu, I present the video from that day, made by my good friends Mike and Charles.

I just want to thank all the men and women that made this opportunity happen. I am humbled by your kindness and truly grateful to have met every one of you along the way. More amazing than any of the jets our country has are those who pilot them and keep them in the sky.

Thank you.

 

 

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. Håkan Ahldén #

    Lucky YOU !!

    August 14, 2012
  2. Darren #

    Lol, well done, beautiful shots, but you seem to have lost a Sidewinder missile along the way… might want to go back and see where you dropped it :-)

    August 14, 2012
  3. Matthew Coughlin #

    That is awesome, Blair. Looks like you had the time of your life. Good stuff, man.

    August 14, 2012
  4. Rick Lewis #

    Awesome!! What an experience. I would have been out like a light:-) Great job Blair!!

    August 14, 2012
  5. Everardo Keeme #

    What an awesome ride that must have been and great job documenting it all!

    August 14, 2012
  6. Chuck Jones #

    Blair my friend, you bring a whole new meaning to the term “High Flying Photographer.” Congrats man, what an experience!

    Now, let’s see the stills…. .

    August 15, 2012
  7. Steve Russell, Joplin, MO #

    About 18 years ago I got to ride in the backseat of an F-4 Phantom out of McConnell AFB in Wichita, KS. Top Gun type school for Air Guard. I was in the news media and we did a story there. I can remember sitting in the cockpit waiting for the crew to complete pre-flight. Noticed a guy leaning against the generator looking at me. He said in my earphones, “Sir, are you OK?” I replied, “Yes, why?” He directed my attention to the breathing rate gauge on the panel and said I should slow my breathing down before I pass out. WOW, pegging it out. After 45 mintues of chasing the Col in 6 and 7.5 G turns, heading back from the flight range the pilot asked if I want to take the stick. I started to get really sick for some unknown reason, we were at level flight heading home. Found out the adreneline was still being pumped in my body and I wasnt burning it fast enough. One of the best days of my life. Hair on fire upside down for 30 miles. Loved it. PS, I love the girl catcher photo.

    August 15, 2012
  8. Douglas Sonders #

    heck yeah
    and love the f16 shot

    August 16, 2012
  9. Charles #

    Great video and shots Blair. Would not have expected anything less. I am actually most surprised that Erin let you go on that flight…

    Hope the new pup is behaving.

    August 16, 2012
  10. Ian Harding #

    Wow! What an amazing experience. The video is very well done and it looks like it was one for the history books for sure.

    Great photo of the plane as well. I love the texture and detail.

    August 17, 2012
  11. Eric Cwiertny #

    This was great! Great promo piece… fighter jet + beautiful photo + great video + Muse as a soundtrack = perfect! One of the few times I was glad to follow an email link to a video AND a blog! Nice work!

    August 22, 2012
  12. That experience is right up there on the top of my bucket list…Simply Awesome!

    August 29, 2012
  13. wow dude… in all senses. That’s incredible and the shot turned out amazing!

    August 31, 2012
  14. Nice work and great pics

    published in the blog Jornal do Ar

    http://jornaldoar.com/2014/04/fotografo-voa-em-caca-f-16-e-tira-fotos-incriveis/

    April 10, 2014

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. GoPro Action: Blair Bunting Takes to the Skies in an F-16 | Fstoppers
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