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 it 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. I felt 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 warning for me.
 
Chambliss? He treated it as if we were puttering around in a paddleboat.
 
Not much surprise there.
 
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. He already had 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. He also 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 casualness 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. 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. It was 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 we 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. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad.
 
Turns out, Chambliss had the airplane on the easy setting. The spin cycle was about to begin.
 
Rocketing past his house, Chambliss took the plane into a 6G turn, on a 270-degree arc. It 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.
 
He followed with what felt like a diabolical gymnastics combo. It was an 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.
 
Just not 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.
 
I wasn't so sure.
 
Thankfully, on the third approach, we landed. My stomach and head didn't seem to believe it. They felt 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.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is it called a “joyride?”
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (86)
  • tialden-1-bar
    10/20/2015 - 07:07 p.m.

    The ride is called a joyride because the ride has no purpose and it is meant to provide joy. Also as stated in the article the ride is a ride that the passenger will never forget in their lives due to the amount of joy the ride is. I found this article very appealing because I would like to fly upside down in a plane.

  • angelinaf-ver
    10/20/2015 - 07:50 p.m.

    I really liked this article. I thought this was a very different but fun topic. I know that I could never ride on an airplane going upside down- I would definitely chicken out! I liked hearing what the person thought about riding the plane upside down.

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    10/20/2015 - 08:57 p.m.

    I would not like to fly upside down because it would be scary. I do not know how people find that this is fun but it certainly does not look fun at all. The people who find this fun like the thrill of the ride so they like it. Other people are very scared of heights so they dislike it very much.
    Why is it called a “joyride?”
    Answer: It is called a "joyride" because it is a thriller that people might enjoy.

  • ryan0420-yyca
    10/20/2015 - 09:52 p.m.

    That is scary that that the person was upside down. Also it is scary if i had to do that because i have been upside moving and it is not a good feeling. If the man in the plane made a mistake he could have died. That is sad that if he died while doing a stunt. The people must hhave been suprised

  • william1108-yyca
    10/20/2015 - 11:59 p.m.

    WOW! I can't believe that they actually flew in a plane upside down. I think I don't want to do that. I think that I will get sick. SO maybe when I change my mind I will do it for fun.

  • williamb-6-bar
    10/21/2015 - 12:25 a.m.

    Chambliss made his rider comefterable. He always kept his cool when things were difficult. He was a pro at flying so nothing made him nervous. He practiced often.

  • jasminel-joh
    10/21/2015 - 11:01 a.m.

    It is fun to do for some people.

  • samanthas-1-ste
    10/21/2015 - 01:01 p.m.

    I read this title and thought it seemed pretty cool. Then reading about the experience, I started feeling unsure. Definitely not for me.

  • tylerb-ogg
    10/21/2015 - 01:31 p.m.

    Because people enjoy the ride

  • jaydeng-jen
    10/21/2015 - 02:36 p.m.

    I think its called a joyride because its so fun and so fast and i would want to fly upside down because it would be fun and it would very dangerous at the same time.

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