On Monday 25 June, we arrived in Bodø, Norway, for our big Fighter vs Fighter project. Shortly after arrival we learnt the devastating news that the F-16 could not be made available. Naturally we took these news very hard, as so much time and money had gone into this, not to mention how much we’d looked forward to challenge this particular aircraft. But when you’re trying to work with operational military equipment, other priorities does take precedence. This is just something we have to accept. And we do.
Fortuantely, Bodø is also home to Norwegian Aviation Museum, and they happened to have several planes in storage that they where happy for us to use instead of the F-16. With good help from staff from the local RNoAF, the planes was pulled out of storage, and given a cleanup before all being placed in close proximity of each other. Now we suddenly have three planes replacing the F-16! We were happy again.
Our lineup now consisted of
- A Russian Mig-15
- A US Lockheed F-104 Starfighter
- A Swedish Saab 35 Draken
On short notice we also got joined by a one of the main national TV broadcasters, TV2, who wanted to create a news story about this event.
The big day
On Wednesday 27 June we had a relaxing morning, having a good breakfast and getting ready for what was to come. The weather was not really on our side, with a pretty good wind and at times plenty of rain in the air. Being in the northern half of Norway, you have to be ready for this, so it was just a question of putting on the right clothes and get into the right mindset.
At the agreed time we met up at the gate for the military air base, together with our hired camera crew and the news team, and was met by an officer who escorted us in to the chosen location, one that had been selected during our brief visit on Monday. After a photo-brief by the local security officer (after all, this was on a military installation), the first plane was pulled into position whilst Karen was putting on the harness and warming up.
The first plane – Mig-15 – went really smooth. In fact, Karen pulled it so fast that all photographers more or less missed it. As she got into it she even let go of the rope she used for added pull.
Second plane out was the F-104 Starfighter. Whilst the planes was swapped around – we used the exact same spot for all pulls – Karen got a bit of rest and some high energy food. Soon the F-104 was in position, cameras had been set correctly. Karen got strapped to the plane, ready to pull. With a heavier plane, this was definitely more challenging. But nevertheless, it was a reasonably easy event as it turned out, and it wasn’t long before she had crossed the finishing line.
Last out was the SAAB 35 Draken. By far the heaviest of the three aircraft. After the plane was put into position, it was time to shoot a TV interview before attempting the final pull of the day. Karen then got strapped in yet again, but this time it was no movement on the plane. On closer inspection we found that the tires had lost a lot of pressure, and authorized ground crew had to be called in to inflate the tires more. With more pressure in the tires, it was time for another attempt. This time there was a slight movement in the plane, but there was no chance of making a pull.
Having pulled two planes first, and spent some energy on the first Draken attempt, there was no more power to gain. The Draken had also been sitting in storage for an unknown length of time, which may also have contributed to it not rolling quite so easily.
With a mixture of disappointment and satisfaction it was time to wrap it up. Two out of three planes pulled successfully. A good days work, and certainly a first in the world by anyone under oxygen therapy.
A big thank you to the conscripts and officers who supported us during the preparations and executions of this event. Without you we could not have done this!