Jesse James soars with Viper West
By Lee Anne Hensley, Hilltop Times staff
/ Published October 03, 2008
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- With the Viper West F-16 Demonstration Team at Hill Air Force Base there is always action, but now they have the lights and camera to document it. In preparation for his upcoming Spike TV stunt-themed show, "Jesse James is a Dead Man," James, Spike TV and Base Productions filmed James' ride in an F-16 Fighting Falcon with demonstration pilot Capt. Russell "Spicolli" Piggott on Sept. 18.
James went through training to fly in the backseat of an F-16D to prepare him for the challenge he will face when he attempts to ride the nitro-methane-fueled drag racing bike that is reported to have a 1,000 horsepower engine.
"To prepare for the nitro bike, we want him to fly in an F-16 aircraft and really push his body to the limit to see how many gs he can actually withstand," said Spike TV Executive Producer John Brenkus in the video interview with the 367th Training Support Squadron at Hill AFB.
As James' new show title implies, James will take on the speed of death-defying, high-performance vehicles he will help build in each one-hour episode. A notorious custom motorcycle builder, James starred in the Discovery Channel's "Monster Garage" from 2002-06 and also in two documentaries about his custom motorcycle shop in California, West Coast Choppers.
Before he could ride in the F-16, James went through physiological, flight equipment, egress and parachute training as soon as he arrived at Hill AFB. James had to complete a preflight check-up with the 75th Medical Group, where the flight doctor signed-off James' physical ability to handle the flight that would expose him to more than 9 gs. The rest of his morning was a series of flight training and preparation, with a public reception at Hangar 37 scheduled before he stepped to his jet.
"My goal is to not make him feel terrible," Piggott said in the video interview with the 367th TSS. "My goal is to give him a ride that will make him understand how the g-forces work and get him ready to ride that nitro bike. And if he gets sick on the way, then so be it, but I'm going to give him the best ride he can possibly have."
Piggott flew James out to the Utah Test and Training Range and performed a series of aerial maneuvers within the 2,600 square miles of airspace during the one-hour flight.
"It was nuts, craziest thing I've ever done," James told the 367th TSS after he landed. "Nothing I've ever done can ever come close to comparing to this. It's crazy!"