Sonic Boom(er) Blues
On May 5th, 2010, I was flying on the edge of disaster. Fractional throttle movements and split second timing stood between songs of victory, and singing the blues.
Greatness lives at the edge of your limits. Failure waits beyond.
I was dash-2 of a F/A-18 “Hornet” formation flying in the air show known as Tomodachi no hi, or Friendship Day. Our next maneuver over Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni was the “high-speed pass.”
Photographers gleefully waited for this opportunity to watch a shockwave visibly form around the jet as it screamed by thousands of spectators.
But we had one problem.
To create the best shockwave, you must fly as close as possible to supersonic, or mach 1.0. But if you hit mach-1, a sonic boom will cause a thunderous noise and destructive pressure. Not to mention, sonic booms are prohibited by regulations around most inhabited areas.
We approached the airfield at low altitude and accelerated while lining up with the runway. The air down low is thick, and small throttle changes cause the mach number to fluctuate.
0.93, 0.94 . . . easy with it.
We couldn’t settle for 0.94. We had to put on a good show. My adrenaline surged. I eeked the power forward with small jabs.
0.96, 0.99 . . . woah, woah! Pull it back!
I almost blew it. The only thing louder than the boom would have been the din of shutters snapping inside monstrous telephoto lenses, or the tongue lashing I’d receive for shattering windows and disturbing the peace. We approached the tower and show center. I darted my eyes between my flight lead and the mach number.
0.98, 0.99, 0.98, 0.98 . . .
“1’s coming right,” my flight lead advised. I relaxed my muscles and took a breath.
It was over. We succeeded. We pushed the regulations to the limit but averted what would have been a disastrous boom.
Tara Bahrampour published a Washington Post article highlighting another set of boomers who seem to be approaching their limits. New data reveals an alarming increase in suicides for the baby boomers.
- The rise is mostly likely cause by a “complex matrix of issues.“
- Boomers have “struggled more with existential questions of purpose and meaning.”
- Boomers have not increased their “ability to cope with difficult emotions.”
- “Boomers do not want to suffer.”1
The article includes some of the following themes:
- Freedom and isolation
This is the natural outworking of relativism. When the boomers were babies, they were fed these philosophies like a jar full of bananas. I don’t encourage my 8-month old to throw his Cheerios on the floor, but the boomers would do well to reject these num-nums. Without absolutes, meaning, purpose, and truth, is it any wonder why the number of boomer suicides is rising?
It was Santayana who said:
Those who refuse to learn history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.
If this analysis about the boomers blues is true, we should look for solutions. Fighter pilots know the best time for creating a game plan is on the ground at 1 G, not during a break turn at 7 Gs with a bogey on our six.
Here are some initial steps to avert a mid-life disaster:
- Develop a coherent worldview.
- Age with grace.
- Respect elders.
Don’t wait until you’re on the ledge to examine the big questions in life. Once you’ve taken the plunge, it’s a long way down and there’s no throttling back.
How will you avoid the boom?
1 Tara Bahrampour, “Baby boomers are killing themselves at an alarming rate, raising question: Why?” The Washington Post, June 3, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/baby-boomers-are-killing-themselves-at-an-alarming-rate-begging-question-why/2013/06/03/d98acc7a-c41f-11e2-8c3b-0b5e9247e8ca_story.html.
- Bingo on the Ball: Are You About to Bolter?
- Just War Theory and Evangelism Part 1: Jus ad Bellum
- Fighter Pilot: Fighting for Rights and Freedom
About Jason B. Ladd
Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.