O/T Bill Elliott


Farm Truck
Feb 26, 2013
He then shifted the discussion to a memorable F-16 flight in autumn 1987. Elliott had been going toe to toe with racing legend Dale Earnhardt all season when the folks at Dobbins Air Force base asked if he’d like to fly in an F-16 after winning the Atlanta Journal 500 race on Sunday, November 22.

“I thought, ‘Man, that would be great.’ I tire tested on Monday, then went to Dobbins on Tuesday.

The base commander said it would be neat if they could do some combat maneuvers. What did I know? We took off and went afterburners straight to 10,000 feet. It was unbelievable. I’d done some aerobatics but never experienced g-loads like that.

“We were at 2,500 feet and did a couple of engagements chasing each other around. Then we went to 14,000 feet. An F-15 was crossing at 2 o’clock on the heads-up display. It was so close I couldn’t focus on it. We turned left and he turned left when our right wing went through his plane’s belly. He punched out while his plane went down.
“We immediately went wings level and I lost communication when our intercom went out. I thought we were going to eject. This was right after the movie Top Gun and I figured I was Goose. You know, the guy who punches out, smacks his head on the canopy and dies.

“The pilot had some control over the airplane and handed me a note. It said ‘I’m going to try and land but if we lose control we’ll have to eject.’ He had underlined ‘eject’ about three times.

“We got down low and that thing has two big fuel tanks under the wings. The one on the left came off and the one on the right was so badly damaged it came off. We slowed down, dropped the gear and I saw three green. He eased down to about 180 knots and the plane started shuddering and breaking towards the bad wing. The aileron was stuck straight up and fuel was pouring out of the wing. I thought, ‘We aren’t going to make it,’ but he put that thing on the runway at 200 knots.

“The funny thing is, I was at Daytona in 2007 or 2008 and met a guy who knew the F-16 pilot I flew with. He told me our crash was the number-one film in the training class!”

Elliott laughs at his good fortune before jumping into a fire-engine-red Dodge Viper and driving a quick half-mile back to his office. An hour later, he’s programming the IFD540 and heading to North Carolina with his son, who recently soloed. The young racer, who’s already learned from his Dad that great equipment and training are critical to success, could hardly have a better teacher.

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