KSL's Nicole Gonzales takes a ride in a fighter jet

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OGDEN -- Next week marks the beginning of Air Force Week. It's the first time Hill Air Force Base will be hosting the event, which only takes place in three cities each year. I was lucky to get an inside peek into the life of a pilot and fly in an F-16.

I was trying to at least look official for my first trip inside Hill Air Force Base. I started out my day getting fitted for my G-suit, my harness, my mask and my helmet. Then it was off to get checked out by the flight doc.

Since I was healthy, I thought I'd go talk to the 388th Fighter Wing commander to see what I was in store for.

"You're going to get to see firsthand that F-16 and kind of get that thrill of flight," Col. Scott Dennis said. He says Air Force Week will offer all Utahns a chance to see what our Airmen do on a regular basis.

Because of the U.S. Department of Defense budget cuts, Hill could lose up to one-third of their F-16s, dropping their total from 72 to 48. That makes my ride in an F-16 even more special. But before I could risk my life, I had to learn ejection strategy and parachute training.

I got suited up for the last time and headed to the jet. I was ready, as they say, to step. I climbed up the ladder, jumped in, and the canopy closed.

I gave a nervous thumbs up -- too late to turn back now -- and we were off. My pilot, Maj. John "Nuke" Gallemore, told me we'd been cleared for a max climb. I didn't know what I was in for.

Nuke quickly went up to 3 Gs, 5 Gs, then he asked if I wanted to go max speed: 9Gs.

"No, I don't think I can handle nine," I said.

"Alright," Nuke replied. "We'll go to seven."

Time for the G-strain maneuver: flexing the lower half of your body while practicing compressed breaths. Nuke had to remind me to keep breathing.

After some loops, rolls and other Top Gun-style tricks, my ride was over. I was back on the ground, where I prefer to be.

Air Force Week starts June 1 and ends June 6, with an open house at Hill Air Force Base.

E-mail: ngonzales@ksl.com

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