Do you have the need, the need for speed? Then, Vegas has the answer.
Sky Combat Ace, which opened in March, offers its own version of “Top Gun.” With different experiences to choose from, including aerobatic flights and dog-fighting, you too can take a ride into the danger zone.
“People come to Vegas to let their hair down – to try something different that they don’t normally do,” said Rick “Tex” Coe, CEO of Sky Combat. “They usually want to push the envelope somewhere.”
This isn’t your average bungee jump or race car ride. “I think this experience – hands down – is the most intense and certainly the biggest adrenaline rush you could experience,” Coe said. “You get to fly with real fighter pilots [in] these amazing planes. Most people only get to see this on TV or a movie like ‘Top Gun.’”
At Sky Combat, Coe said they combine amazing airplanes with fighter pilots who have years of training, creating a dynamic experience.
“It’s one of those experiences like climbing Mount Everest,” said UFC fighter Rib McCullough, who took a flight recently. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Coe comes from a family of flight lovers with a pilot for a dad and a mom who took flying lessons. Coe learned to fly at 16 years old. After college, he was in the Air Force for 12 years and flew fighter jets like F-16s, traveling all over the world. The idea for creating Sky Combat came to Coe and his business partner, Gareth Long, about a year ago.
“I tried to think in my life what has been the most beneficial, most useful and most fun,” Coe said. “I’m probably not the only guy who enjoys these types of activities. When I look back on my life, I thought of the elements I enjoyed so much and maybe there’s a way to take those and create a business out of it.”
Sky Combat’s aircraft, made in Germany, are two-seat, state-of-the-art aerobatic Extra 330 LC fighter planes that are far from ordinary. You’ll fly approximately 1,500 feet above the ground and get a panoramic view of the Las Vegas desert. The planes reach speeds up to 220 miles an hour and are built for maneuverability.
Christopher Knight, best known as Peter Brady from “The Brady Bunch,” took a flight at Sky Combat recently and described the experience as kick-ass.
“I’ve been in small planes before, but it’s a difference between flying a family sedan versus a sports car,” said Knight. “It’s that different. You feel confident in something with that kind of response, that kind of power. It’s like an extension of you [and] good that they have it so people can gain the experience.”
“Expect to have your socks knocked off,” Coe said. That’s how we built it.”
Sky Combat Ace offers three types of flights: Sky Combat, Top Gun and the After Burner.
The four-hour Top Gun flight includes a 30-minute orientation and up to 40 minutes of riding. Once you’re in the air, you’ll get the chance to fly the plane and execute moves like loops, rolls, stalls and spins, as well as advanced moves like hammerheads and tumbling. Don’t worry about being an expert – your fighter pilot in the backseat assists you, talking you through all the maneuvers. And if there are any moves you feel uncomfortable executing, you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. If you’re pressed for time, the After Burner is similar to the Top Gun flight, but the flight is only 25 minutes long.
The five-hour Sky Combat offers the most interaction out of the three. This flight includes up to 50 minutes of riding. During a 50-minute orientation, you’ll learn basic fighter maneuvering and the art of aerial dog fighting. Once you’re up in the air (with the help of your fighter pilot behind you), you’ll engage in up to five combat fights. Your plane comes with an optical targeting system to take your opponent out. You’ll know that you hit your opponent when you see the puff of smoke come out from the back of their plane.
“It [was] my first time flying a plane and dog fighting,” McCullough explained. “You get full control of the airplane and there’s plane next to you, neck-to-neck. It’s pretty fun, crazy [and] intense.”
Your flight experience doesn’t remain up in the air. With four cameras in the plane capturing all the action, you’ll have the chance to walk away with a DVD souvenir.
“Not only do you get to experience it firsthand, but others vicariously are going to get to enjoy your experience,” Coe said. “There’s people who hoot and holler and laugh uncontrollably. Some people look like they’ve been tickled to death. Everyone reacts differently.”
If you’ve never flown a plane before, don’t let that be the reason you back out.
“We even took one person who had never flown in a plane at all,” Coe said. “Can you imagine that for your first experience in an airplane? You can only imagine what they must have been thinking!”
“If you’re afraid of heights, this is going to put you square in the face and allow you to overcome that fear,” Coe explained. The first five minutes are probably going to be terrifying, but it’s part of the fun – Just like you don’t ride a rollercoaster falling asleep.
I can almost guarantee that anybody who does these rides will sleep good that night if don’t take a nap first!” he continued.
Seasoned pilots also get a kick out of these flights: “Let’s face it – if you’re used to flying a jumbo jet, you don’t get to do flying like this,” said Coe. “So for any pilot, this is a treat.”
“You’ve got to give it a shot!” Knight said. “There’s very little fear. It might even help if you have issues with small planes. It’s just a real good time.”
To get the most fun out of your adventure in the sky, keep these factors in mind:
1. Keep hydrated – this is the most important thing to remember.
2. Stay with your regular eating routine. This doesn’t mean you should indulge in a buffet breakfast, but if you normally have breakfast and want to eat, that’s perfectly fine.
3. While there isn’t an age restriction to fly this plane, passengers must be at least 80 pounds and 4 feet tall. The maximum weight and height is 240 pounds and 6 feet, 3 inches tall.
4. Don’t forget to wear shoes and socks during your flight. Also, keep in mind you’ll be wearing a flight suit jumper over your clothes. Comfortable and lightweight clothing underneath is best.
5. Have fun! Not everyone can say they’ve experienced anything like this. Feeling apprehensive? Relax, don’t stress out and have a good time. It will make your flight that much better.
Prices for Sky Combat Ace start at $329, not including fees. Morning and afternoon flights are available. To book a flight, go to www.vegas.com/attractions/