"There's really no way to do it justice — to tell you what it was really like," says the awestruck angler. "After I passed my training I thought I knew what was going to happen. But let me tell you I was wrong. I didn't have a clue."
Stone reports that most of his training involved what not to do, rather than what to do.
"I had several things I was supposed to do if we crashed or were going to crash. But the biggest thing was what not to do. Pull the wrong lever or twist the wrong knob, and you're toast. I mean you could accidentally eject yourself if you screwed up. That wouldn't be good.
"I wish I could tell you what all is on these things, but I can't. They won't let me. It's Top Secret. I will say, however, that it looked like a Star Wars deal to me. If you think the electronics on a bass boat are complex....
"The takeoff was my first eye-opener. We accelerated on the runway for about a minute and then went straight up in the air. We were at 10,000 feet in a matter of seconds, or at least it seemed that fast to me. It wasn't like a Delta Airlines flight, I'll tell you that."
During the flight Stone was required to wear a G-suit to stabilize the pressure and consequently the blood flow to his heart and brain, otherwise he would lose consciousness. High-performance aircraft produce G-forces of 4.5 to 6.5 during flight maneuvers. (For comparison purposes consider that the wildest roller coasters produce G-forces of about 2.5 — most are closer to 1.5.)
"The G-suit inflates to help you, but you have to learn to tighten your leg muscles and pucker up other parts of your body to keep the blood flowing to your chest and brain. That's not as easy as it sounds when you're doing barrel rolls and twisting around in thin air.
"I did pretty well when we did those things and didn't puke or scream or pass out or anything, so Twister — my pilot — let me fly it for a few minutes. My turns were good but somehow I got the plane pointed towards 'the dirt' as he said just before he took over the controls.
"I also got to watch an in-flight refueling exercise and we did some maneuvers with another fighter plane that served as a dogfight training exercise. The whole thing was beyond my wildest expectations, almost beyond belief.
"But, my best and proudest moment came when I returned my barf bag to the flight crew on the ground — carrying it under my own power — unused! It doesn't get any better than that."
Stone, a noted supporter of our military, continued to say that he is more impressed with the skill and dedication of our fighter pilots after his flight than he was before his flight.
"These guys do a job and risk their lives every day under conditions most of us can't even dream about. They are seriously physically and mentally fit, not to mention brave. I can't say enough good about these men and women. We truly owe our freedom to them. They are the real deal, that's for sure."
This flight concludes the second leg of Stone's three-step dream journey — driving a NASCAR, flying in a fighter plane and training with the Special Forces. Stay tuned for the Special Forces thing....