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Original Issue

Jet Stet

An SI editor takes off

Do-do-do, do-de-do ...

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


The day after being the 18th pick in the NBA draft (Rockets), Sam Dekker was home in Sheboygan, Wis., mowing the family lawn.



High Times Cannella (left) and Charbo pose postflight.