Would you like to fly upside down? Associated Press sports writer John Marshall, in the cockpit left, flies upside-down with Red Bull plane racing pilot Kirby Chambliss near the pilot's home in Eloy, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Would you like to fly upside down?
Lexile

Blank stares and belching were the only possibilities when it was over. Any movement, even raising my head to speak, was dangerous.
 
The climbing and diving at 220 mph, slaloming the tips of cactus and mesquite trees, corkscrewing, banking at 6Gs, flying upside down and end-over-end (more on that later) barely lasted five minutes, yet seemed to have the cumulative effect of a month-long flu.
 
So, for an hour after the joyride over Eloy, Arizona, ended, I sat on a folding chair inside Kirby Chambliss' home hangar, feeling as if the blood had drained from my body, my internal organs swapped places, my stomach somehow bloated and twisted in knots at the same time.
 
"I try to give people an experience that they'll remember for the rest of their lives," Chambliss said.
 
Mission accomplished, though with a queasy caveat for me.
 
Chambliss treated it as if we were puttering around in a paddleboat.
 
He's been around planes all his life. His father was a pilot and the two of them built their own plane from scratch when he was 13.
 
At 24, Chambliss became the youngest commercial pilot at Southwest Airlines and had already honed his aerobatic skills by the time he made captain at 28.
 
Practicing three times a day, seven days a week, Chambliss turned himself into a five-time U.S. national aerobatics champion and was one of the founding pilots in the Red Bull Air Races when the series began in 2003. He's still racing in the series.
 
So as our aircraft hurtled end over end like a paper plane with a bent nose, Chambliss spoke with the nonchalance of an airline pilot pointing out the Grand Canyon 37,000 feet below.
 
"We're going to go on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride," he said.
 
Friends asked why I was dumb enough to volunteer for such a crazy ride and I was wondering the same thing after watching Chambliss' plane roar over the house upside down.
 
Death wasn't what had me worried. Chambliss is one of the world's best at contorting airplanes at crazy angles.
 
The concern was for my stomach. Something about intentionally making myself sick didn't, uh, sit well.
 
"Don't worry, you'll be fine," Chambliss said. "We'll go up and do a few things, see how you do."
 
The first thing he did was turn the plane upside down. Not after gaining some altitude but within a second of becoming airborne.
 
Our minds tell us the sky should be up, the ground down. Watching the green-and-brown desert blur over our heads and blue sky float below us (or was it above?) made about as much sense as a flying hippopotamus.
 
From there, we climbed, then dove, at over 200 miles per hour, toward three houses on Chambliss' Flying Crown Ranch. Instead of disintegrating, which seemed to be our certain fate, we started slaloming the houses to mimic what Chambliss does during races.
 
After going inverted again and another slalom round, I felt surprisingly good, so maybe this wouldn't be so bad.
 
Turns out, Chambliss had it on the easy setting, and the spin cycle was about to begin.
 
Rocketing past his house, Chambliss took the plane into a 6G turn, on a 270-degree arc that made me feel like a squished tater tot squeezing through a wormhole.
 
My stomach: "You've got my attention now."
 
I lied and told Chambliss I was doing OK, so he followed with what felt like a diabolical gymnastics combo: Upside-down twist, front flip with a flat spin.
 
My lunch was ready to dismount.
 
"I think I'm done," I said, tapping out after 5 minutes, 5 seconds of flying.
 
"OK, we'll head down," he said, though what he meant was we weren't yet going down to the ground.
 
Because the brakes were hot, we touched down and took off twice so he could fly around to cool them off.
 
"Better than ending up off the end of the runway into the trees," he said, although I wasn't so sure.
 
Thankfully, on the third approach, we landed, but my stomach and head didn't seem to believe it, feeling as if we were still twirling through the sky.
 
Chambliss was right: It was an experience I'll never forget, for reasons good and bad.

Filed Under:  
Assigned 24 times
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is it called a “joyride?”
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (17)
  • post,ryan-cas
    10/21/2015 - 08:09 a.m.

    1. It is called a joyride because being able to fly upside down in an airplane is exciting and fun.

    2.The definition of joy is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness which is exactly what everyone who has done this has felt like.

  • daltonm-ofs
    10/21/2015 - 03:53 p.m.

    I thought this story was very interesting and I would like to go on joyride like that myself.

  • kobea-ofs
    10/21/2015 - 03:58 p.m.

    crazy upside down for five min at 220mph. he is a very skilled driver he knows what he is doing.

  • tylers-day
    10/21/2015 - 06:19 p.m.

    That's crazy! I would never volunteer myself to do go on a plane ride like that. I struggle keeping my lunch done during my races, so there is no way my lunch would stay down during that ride. Kudos to the author for not throwing up, that's quite impressive.

  • holdeno-3-bar
    10/22/2015 - 11:15 a.m.

    These types of experiences are called joyrides because that is the only purpose that they offer. After this plane ride occurred, the author remarked that he would never forget this experience because of the feelings he felt during the ride.. On rides like this, the human body produces a lot of epinephrine, which creates the emotion of adrenaline, or joy.
    I liked this article because, although I don't like thrill rides as much, the idea of doing tricks in a plane sounded cool.

  • taylorr-day
    10/22/2015 - 01:27 p.m.

    It's called "joyride" because climbing and diving at 220 mph, slaloming the tips of cactus and mesquite trees, corkscrewing, and flying upside down. And whats amazing is that it only last for five minutes. I would love to go on a "joyride" myself one and and I hope I get an opportunity to.

  • mattheww-day
    10/23/2015 - 02:03 p.m.

    Its called a joyride because its fun. You are able to do anything that you want to do in the sky. You can do loops and rolls. It is also fun to have a joyride with a friend.

  • laurenc-bag
    10/26/2015 - 04:17 p.m.

    Flying upside down
    Going for a joyride, YAY!
    Barf your insides out. ????????????????

  • laurenc-bag
    10/26/2015 - 04:19 p.m.

    Oh, and also, a joy ride is a ride that is supposed to be a little fun and exciting. You're not forced to do it, it's your choice to kneel by the toilet all night ????

  • briannec-ste
    10/26/2015 - 07:17 p.m.

    I wouldn't like going upside down on a plane. I would feel like I was going to fall out of simply hit my head off of something. But some people are crazy like that.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT