Do-do-do, do-de-do ...
This is an article from the July 6, 2015 issue
I'm 1,000 feet over Long Island Sound, hearing my pilot hum as absentmindedly as a hansom cab driver trotting through Central Park. But this is no 747 circling LaGuardia. We're in a twin-seat L-39C Albatros military trainer jet, flying with the seven-man Breitling Jet Team, the world's largest professional civilian jet aerobatics squad. The singing airman—Bernard Charbonnel, a 55-year-old former French air force pilot—is about to pull us into a vertical loop: essentially a 360-degree roller-coaster circle, only at more than 400 mph. "O.K., Steve," Charbo says over my headset, "you might feel a little something now."
Little something, right: We are buffeted by four times the normal force of gravity and the equilibrium-destroying sensation that comes when the sun passes over your feet and the blood that should be in your head pools in your toes.
Charbonnel was giving me a firsthand taste of what the Swiss-based BJT, which this summer is on its first North American tour, does every day. It's more than a thrill ride. Charbonnel and the other team members—a group of impossibly dashing Frenchmen who have been flying together for 15 years—are high-speed, high-altitude athletes, flipping and rolling their 7,500-pound jets in formation and in unison, with wingtips usually less than 10 feet apart. Says Charbonnel, "Our greatest skill is trusting each other."
To read more and see a video of the flight, go to SI.com/jets
SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
The day after being the 18th pick in the NBA draft (Rockets), Sam Dekker was home in Sheboygan, Wis., mowing the family lawn.