Back in 1988, while I was in the USAF, I won a few competitions (Load Crew of the Month and Load Crew of the Quarter). By winning these competitions I was awarded an "incentive ride" in the F-16B for our squadron (79-428).
Here are some photos from that day. The first shot shows me strapped into the back seat and searching for some important switch.
The second shot is pure fun as I've got the oxygen mask on and visor down. I was a fighter pilot for a day!
The third shot here is when we were taxiing out to the runway. At this point, I'm about as excited as I can get.
This fourth shot shows us overhead after takeoff. There is nothing like a full afterburner takeoff in the F-16. The engine puts out 25,000 lbs of thrust and our aircraft was slick (no pylons or fuel tanks). I was completely blown away by the force of acceleration. Incredible.
This last shot is after we returned and were taxiing back. The flight lasted about 45 minutes and I was able to fly the plane for about 15 minutes. Let me tell you that flying the F-16 was a blast, but nothing prepares you for the g-forces you will experience. My badge of honor was that I didn't puke from the ride, though I did grey-out during a high g pull-out.
I knew when I joined the USAF I was going to do whatever it took to get a ride. If it took winning competitions, I was going to do it. I was so hooked after that flight that I went on to win two more competitions and was awarded another incentive flight. I never got the second ride since they pulled out some old policy thing that said you were only allowed one flight per tour of duty.