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


COMMENTS (10)
  • lbocc-wim
    10/21/2015 - 01:14 p.m.

    Flying in this plane upside down is called a joyride because it is a crazy ride and it makes you excited at first, during the process it makes you feel sick, and at the end you feel joy and bravery of doing it

  • jacobd-ver
    10/23/2015 - 08:56 a.m.

    I think that it is cool how people don't scream while flying up side down. Knowing me I would scream the whole time. I would be so scared.

  • lukeh-orv
    10/26/2015 - 02:54 p.m.

    I think that it is cool how people don't scream while flying up side down. Knowing me I would scream the whole time. I would be so scared.

  • jacks-6-bar
    10/26/2015 - 04:24 p.m.

    One might call the experience a "joyride" because of the many angles one has to fly through. The obscure feeling of speed and flying through these angles can get one's adrenaline pumping, and adrenaline creates a rough, hyper feeling, hopefully making the experience almost JOYFUL and accelerated for the passenger. This article surprised me; I never knew you could actually go to a stunt pilot and they would actually take you flying!

  • maxx-ver
    10/26/2015 - 06:09 p.m.

    If I did this I would be screaming my head off and when I saw the picture where the plane reflected the ground I was very confused

  • Steve0620-yyca
    10/26/2015 - 08:47 p.m.

    I think that it would be a fun experience if I could ride in a plane where the pilot went upside down and swerved around the air. The narrator felt sick and was a little worried about his stomach but he probably still had a good time. I wonder how it will feel if I ride in a plane that went upside down. I might have an uneasy and weird feeling but I think that it will be good to try. I wonder how long the pilot must have trained to fly the plane without any dangers and he must have a good stomach or be used to the feeling of the plane flying around the air.

  • jacksonm-2-bar
    10/27/2015 - 07:38 p.m.

    I think that it's insane how people don't scream while flying up side down. The founder of flying upside down must have been the biggest daredevil that ever lived. I would never even get close to one of those planes just knowing what could happen.

  • aidene-jen
    10/28/2015 - 10:26 a.m.

    I would love to fly upside down, all the energy would be awesome to my opinion.

  • samanthao-ver
    12/02/2015 - 10:18 a.m.

    I would not fly upside down because I would be too afraid that something on the plane will go wrong or I would get injured.

  • okathryn-dav
    2/01/2017 - 09:32 p.m.

    In response to "Would you like to fly upside down?" No, I would not fly upside down. One reason is because the pilot could crash the plane. The second reason is because the plane is upside down when it should be rightside up, so it would be weird and uncomfortable. The third reason is because flying upside down at several hundred feet in the air would make me dizzy and nauseous. Even though flying upside down in a plane would be a unique and exciting experience, I still wouldn't fly upside down in a plane.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT