Stacey Cook prepares for a flight in a U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet during her visit to the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at Naval Air Station Fallon (Sharon Cook)
Fallon, NV (June 20) – Olympic halfpipe snowboarding gold medalist Kelly Clark (West Dover, VT) and two-time Olympic alpine skier Stacey Cook (Mammoth Mountain, CA) became copilots Tuesday aboard U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter jets during a visit to Fallon Naval Air Station, near Mammoth Mountain, CA. 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.
Olympians Kelly Clark and Stacey Cook were invited to the Fallon Naval Air Station to fly as a guest in an F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter jet.
Clark, the 2002 Olympic gold medalist for halfpipe snowboarding, won a string of 16 halfpipe events last winter, including the Aspen and Euro X Games.
Cook is a member of the best in the world U.S. women's downhill team finishing the 2012 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup season ranked 10th.
During the two-day session, the athletes 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.
Clark and Cook 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.
Their 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.
QUOTES Kelly Clark The Navy has such a different lifestyle, but we've got adrenaline in common. The build-up to flying in a fighter jet is similar to a contest and the adrenaline is like you've landed your best run ever at the biggest contest out there. We started out at a four G turn to test my tolerance and I was totally fine. We took a left turn at six Gz's and I had to focus on my breathing and the techniques they taught me and I maxed out at 6.6 Gz.
As G forces increase your blood drains from your brain (this can make you pass out) and I had to start firing my muscles in my calves working up to my glutes to keep my blood circulating and air exchanging into my lungs.
We did two loops and that was awesome. I felt pretty normal and I think being an athlete really helped and make it easier for me to withstand the flight. It was pretty exhausting.
Everyone at the base was so friendly and welcoming. They paired Stacey and I up with pilots that matched our personalities so well. Fisheye was my pilot and he was so in control and on point, but really mellow at the same time. I don't think I'll ever have another experience like it again and I'm so thankful I got to check out Fallon Air Base.
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. Adrian Calder, who raced for Colby Colllege (AKA 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.
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.
It was so great to share this with Kelly [Clark]. We visited the teen center on the base and spent some time with the sailor's kids. She and I complement each other really well. We both had very different, but very powerful Olympic experiences and it was fun to relay that to the kids.
Rear Admiral Mark A. Vance, Commander, Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center Having these two Olympians visit NSAWC was an incredible experience for me and the Sailors under my command. These two remarkable women demonstrate a similar focus and work ethic the Navy demands of its people. It was a real privilege to meet them.