Ballpark Estimate: $1,100 to $3,500
If you’ve always dreamed of being a fighter pilot but find thought that role was out of your reach, think again. There are several companies today that will let you try on the job for size without your needing to switch careers or join the military to qualify. All you need is the desire, the time and the money to invest in this once-in-a-lifetime experience, then you can take to the sky — with the help of a trained professional, of course.
Up, Up and Away!
The definition of a dogfight is aerial combat between two fighter pilots, who circle each other to try to achieve a position that will enable each to fire on the enemy without being fired back upon. If you want to try this for yourself, some companies will let you step into a plane with an ex-fighter pilot who will demonstrate some combat maneuvers and tactics. While the aircraft used for this is more typically a propeller plane rather than a genuine fighter jet, whatever you fly will likely come equipped with electronic “guns” and sensors that will allow you to create the effect of a fight that will make your stomach clench and engage all of your senses.
What to Expect
The company that first created simulated dogfights, called Aircombat, says that their actual flight time is just an hour long, but participants (who can range from children to seniors) can expect to need close to three hours total including getting some prior training and preparation, as well as donning a flight suit to add to the complete experience, and a parachute for safety’s sake. Other companies have their own formats, but the overall effect will be similar.
The good news is that you don’t need a pilot’s license to become a fighter pilot for the day, since most companies rely on a seasoned pilot to handle the take off and the landing. But once you are safely flying high, you will have your chance to take over at the controls and engage in the thrill of simulated combat using a special electronic combat system. When you score a hit, beeps and lights will let you know you’ve been successful. Some companies will even have the target plane emit smoke, to give an added sense of authenticity.
The Price of Such Glory
While the experience of becoming a fighter pilot for an hour or two doesn’t come cheap, some people feel that the cost is well worth the thrill they will receive for this chance to live out their childhood dream.
You can expect a basic day as a fighter pilot to cost between $1,100 and $1,500.
This should include some preparation and brief training, following by a flight and the chance to engage in a half dozen or so simulated dogfights. In addition, most companies will videotape your experience. Some include these videos in their cost and others are available for purchase. A few of the companies actually allow you to purchase your flight suit as well. Price varies with each company so be sure to enquire before booking.
For a more intense experience, you can run up a tab of between $1,900 and $3,500.
In return for the added expense, you get multi-day flights, advanced maneuvers, more air time and even lifetime discounts on future flights.
In addition, some companies also offer a group rate. This is a great way to engage in combat with your friends and share this unique experience.
Group flights can run between $10,000 and $14,000 for 10 participants.
If you think these prices sound steep for a brief adventure, keep in mind that while the experience will be over before you know it, there is a lot of preparation that goes into the flight, as well as the cost of the plane’s maintenance, the gas and the instructor’s time.
Also, depending on what company you use for this experience and where they are located, you will need to factor in the cost for a hotel and transportation.
The experts recommend that before you book your flight, you make sure that any company you are considering complies with Federal Aviation Administration guidelines and other established safety regulations.
A Final Note
If you would love to experience the thrill of a dogfight but simply can’t afford the high cost that comes with it, there is one other, more economical, option to consider. Many of the latest video and online games will let you experience a simulated dogfight right from the comfort of your own house. Better yet, this alternative comes without any risk of getting airsick.