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A fighter pilot tells us what the real Top Guns drive to work

John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an American serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force flying in a Spitfire squadron in Britain during the Second World War, wrote eloquently of having “[S]lipped the surly bonds of earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; … wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence” and “flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.” Though he was tragically killed in a midair collision at the tender age of 19, Magee's poem “High Flight” remains a favorite of pilots the world over. What his moving prose fails to adequately describe is the stark brutality of aerial combat. It’s akin to a knife fight in a phone booth, only with the combatants’ knives worth multitudinous millions of dollars.


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As an USAF retiree and Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) washout - nice article. I will say in my experience Air Force base parking lots had more sport cars than your average business lot. In the flying squadrons age and marriage status had a lot to do with what was driven. Single guys were way more likely to have a hot car. Senior Officers with grown kids also seem to have hot cars. In my day USAF Academy grads got deals from the local Chevy dealer on Vettes. So at UPT base that had a lot Academy Grads there were alot of Vettes. You mentioned High Flight my "dollar ride" (first flight) in a T-38 Talon my instructor quoted the entire poem while doing acrobatics in the cloud formations. Very cool. The thing I learned that help with my driving skiles is to keep you head on a swivel and your eyes moving. The second best is your mind has to be several miles in front of the aircraft. If you only keep of with the vehicle you are to late in your reactions.

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