This story, originally published in 2015, has been updated in advance of the 2018 Red Bull Air Race Championship.
I knew from the sheer number of waivers that needed my signature that I was in for a wild ride.
At 7:30 a.m. on Sept. 14, 2015, I arrived at Alliance Airport in Fort Worth with coffee mug in hand like it was any normal day. That's what I had to tell myself, as I am prone to anxiety attacks. But I'm also a big adventurer. So when offered — or more accurately volunteered for by my boss — the opportunity to fly with one of the pilots competing in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship, I had to say yes.
Typically the Air Race World Championship consists of an obstacle course that pilots must navigate as quickly and tactfully as possible. You can see it for yourself during the two-day event at Texas Motor Speedway Nov. 17 and 18.
That, however, was not the type of joyride I took with my captain-in-crime Kirby Chambliss, a Texas native and competitor in the race since its inception in 2003. Chambliss, a 35-year vet in the cockpit, was fresh off a third place Air Race victory in Spielburg, Austria and was ready to show me what he called "the funnest roller coaster in the world."
And he was right, though "fun" isn't the first adjective I use to describe my journey afterward. "Insane," "crazy," and "absolutely out of this world" more accurately encompass the feeling of being shaken, rattled and rolled in a Edge 540T for two aircraft. But yes, it was fun and terrifying and everything in between.
Once we were in the air and far enough from the airport to do aerobatics (that's the technical term for doing flips in an airplane), the first thing Chambliss did was test my seat belt by flipping the plane upside down. It wasn't long before I was seeing the world upside down and inside out from a series of barrel rolls, snap rolls, and airplane cartwheels. Chambliss' favorite? The flat spin, which is what happens in that one iconic Top Gun scene where Goose dies... ha... ha.
The most important part of this story, however, is something of a personal accomplishment.
I am proud to say I did not get sick, though the barf bag was staring at me for the entirety of the ride.
Better still, I lived to tell the tale! It was the craziest four minutes of my life so far, and if given the choice, I'd do it all again.
Plan your life
Red Bull Air Race World Championship takes place Nov. 17 and 18 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day at Texas Motor Speedway, 3545 Lone Star Cir., Fort Worth, TX. Tickets range $29 for one-day general admission for adults to $1,150 weekend passes to the swanky Sky Lounge, and can be purchased here.