Stacey Cook flies at the speed of sound
Two-time Olympic alpine skier Stacey Cook became copilot aboard U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter jets during a visit to Fallon Naval Air Station, near Mammoth Mountain, CA. this week Tuesday. The hour and a half flights, which hit forces of six Gz and topped out at 40,000 feet, were organized by the U.S. Navy as a way for the athletes to share their Olympic experiences with the sailors and families based at Fallon.
Cook is a member of the U.S. women's downhill team finishing the 2012 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup season ranked 10th. During the two-day session, she went through a condensed Aviation Physiology and Survival Training, interacted with sailors stationed on the base and spent time with families at the base teen center. She flew to the speed of sound and reached altitudes of 40,000 feet while striking forces up to six and a half Gz, equal to pressure of six times their own body weight. The pilots were member's of the U.S. Navy Strike Department, which trains Carrier Air Wings in preparation for deployment into combat.
In a matter of 10-15 seconds they reached 180 miles an hour and were able to fly by Mammoth Mountain, CA and perform a "carrier break" at the Fallon Naval Air Station tower in addition to other maneuvers. Fallon Naval Air Station features the longest runway in the Navy at 14,000 feet; it is also home to more than 3,000 active personnel.
Stacey Cook: "The intensity of this flight was well beyond what I thought my limit would be. We hit six Gz, did huge loops, twists, turns and dove to 500 feet above a road. I train six to seven hours every day, but I was totally exhausted after just an hour and a half of flying. It's amazing what the pilot's body can handle. Boa was my pilot and he was incredible.
This flight was the only thing I've ever experience that is above the level of intensity and adrenaline you get in racing downhill."
She added: "As athletes, we're incredibly tuned to what our bodies are doing while competing. But during this flight, there were so many times where I had no idea where we were in space. It was incredible just hanging out with the pilots. These guys are "Top Gun" instructors. They're the top of the top - just being around them was similar to the feeling you get at the start of a downhill. It's an intense place, but when someone cracks a joke, the whole place explodes with laughter."