The Last Ace and the Amazing F-15

One of my favorite writers, Mark Bowden, has a new article titled “The Last Ace” in this month’s Atlantic.

One section of the article is devoted to the McDonnell Douglas F-15 – an amazing airplane. I remember the first time I saw one in the mid-1970’s. It was at St. Louis’ Lambert Field – where the McDonnell Douglas factory was on the other side of the airport from the commercial airline terminal.

While waiting for a plane change at Lambert, I saw an F-15 taxing out from the factory area and, for the first time in my life, saw that airplane take off and proceed to accelerate out of the area going straight up! Turns out that the F-15 was one of the first aircraft whose engine thrust actually exceeded its weight – enabling it to accelerate going straight up. It was an amazing sight to see – and quite a roar to hear as well.

Bowden captures that F-15 feeling:

“For more than a quarter century, the speed and sound of a formation of F‑15s or F‑16s has made a commanding statement about American power… You feel its approach before you can hear or see it, a low vibration that starts in your toes and rises until the gray jets flick past overhead. Only then comes the roar. They are gone before your eyes focus on them, leaving behind the orange glow of their afterburners and a wash of energy that hammers your ears and rattles your spine.”


Here’s my last close encounter with an F-15 – this time an F-15E Strike Eagle – at this year’s Salinas Air Show:

F-15E Strike Eagle - Salinas Air Show

Gives me goose bumps again just remembering it! See more of my photos from that airshow.

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