Learning to fly a plane can be an exhilarating experience, but for some aspiring pilots, they want to bring out their inner Top Gun and feel what a dog fight is like. Air Combat USA aims to bring the aerial combat experience to civilians, offering fighter pilot sessions where people get to actually control the plane and battle against other people.
The company was established in 1988 as the original dog fighting school for civilians, flying more than 48,000 guest pilots with locations around the country. Guests are placed inside an SIAI Marchetti SF260, an Italian fighter aircraft FAA certified for up to +6/-3 Gs. California locations also added an Extra 300L, a favorite plane of aerobatic pilots. The seats of the planes are side-by-side style, which unlike the front-back tandem style, lets the guest pilot the plane while the instructor still has access to the controls for safety.
Guests typically control the plane about 90 percent of the time they are in the air. A training session will get beginners accustomed to the plane and even teach them some aerial maneuvers. Once comfortable in the pilot’s seat, guests battle each other in a series of dog fights that feel like the Air Force’s version of lasertag. The game utilizes a tracking system patented by Air Combat president, Captain Mike Blackstone, where a confirmed hit results in smoke released from under the fuselage.
Cockpit cameras record all the action, and are given to guests in a post-fight debriefing. There are a variety of packages available for beginners and advanced pilots. To learn more about Air Combat USA, visit their website.
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