In the months leading up to Thunder Over Dover 2019, I made this video of myself flying the demo using the mobile flight/combat sim Carrier Landing HD (Best Raptor model and flight physics ever. Awesome graphics too. Sadly it’s iOS only for now) and backing it up with narration, A.K.A my self-taught voice acting.
In the video’s development, I was rather lazy at one point, so I decided to story it, and tag the F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team’s instagram. This managed to catch the eye of Lt. Sam Eckholm. He sent back to me, saying he was looking forward to its completion. If you know me, I’m quite obsessed with 5th Generation Fighters, so naturally, I became committed to getting it done. Within the next couple days, I finished it. Sent the link to Sam, and I somehow impressed not only him, but then-Major Paul “Loco” Lopez. The team’s pilot and commanding officer. Sam later told me he wanted me to hang around at the booth. That led to an Airshow I’d never forget.
So it was Show Day. Saturday on the 14th of September. I was attending the show with my father and another friend of mine, Jeremy, who also happened to be a huge fan of the F-22, and flew virtual demos as well. Upon seeing the Demo Team’s booth, I immediately made that my viewing point. And right between a large pickup and the booth, was Maj. Lopez himself talking to Airshow fans. He was quite busy with them, so I just stood by, anxiously waiting for the opportunity to speak. But in the meantime, he did offer me stickers, which I replied with thanks.
Then, a gap between fans opened up, and I mentioned to him:
“You know that flight sim video with the Raptor? That was me.”
That started an amazed look on his face and something along the lines of “no way, man!” He got his phone out and shot a selfie with me, and I did the same. Wow, I never knew a fighter pilot could be this down-to-earth, chill and crazy about flying like any other avgeek. (hence the callsign “Loco”). We had a good talk about flying the Raptor and that sim itself. He was on about the way the control surfaces moving almost exactly like the actual and how the Raptor’s drifty character was modeled dead-on.
After the show was over, I stayed for a while as previously instructed by one of the crew chiefs. Me and a few other guys, were going on tour with Lt. Eckholm. Jeremy was kinda left out, so I asked if we could take friends along for the ride, and yep, I could, so I took him along. We went for a close range walk around the jet, inside a distance where not most civilians would get to see that Raptor. I could note how sharpened to a point the edges of the airframe were. Lockheed Martin surely didn’t want any round edge on that thing, having advanced stealth in mind. I was in awe for most of the tour. This fighter I’ve seen fly from a distance since 2008 and now, I was just this close to the most powerful fighter in arguably the world. It was a moment that really made me think of my future career.
So yeah. That’s pretty much why I now run a virtual F-22 Demo Team, breaking out 1.5-mile runs and other PT, studying leadership and eying my local AFROTC. I could actually see myself one day leading to inspire others as an officer and/or pilot. No guarantees I’ll be in a fighter though. Military Aviation is highly competitive, and if you want that, you may as well do some homework on the subject of how the process works and work hard to take on whatever barriers may try to weed you out with confidence. Whatever the Demo Team did to my flying bug, that day just made it ten times what it was before.
Here’s something you could talk about: I wonder what your awesome Airshow moment was? I’d love to hear it 👍🏻😉
Disclaimer: I don’t intend to promote another sim on the IFC forums. It just is part of the story I’ve told.