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A few minutes out of Langley, our Super Sabre whooshed over Virginia's Dismal Swamp to the cirrus-dappled air over North Carolina's Chowan River. This area was set aside for acrobatics, cleared of other aircraft. In the Super Sabre, Brett could have wafted into weightlessness by flying high and level, faster than sound, and pushing the plane's nose up into the Keplerian trajectory, in which centrifugal force exactly cancels the earth's gravitational pull. Despite his plane's vast speed reserve, he chose to work at lower altitudes, enter the parabola from a power dive (see diagram). Over "hot mikes" (both microphones always switched on, so that each of us could hear the other's breathing), he asked simply: "Ready?"

Like a Lead Balloon. Gripped in my hand as we went through the power dive and pullout was a 4-oz. lead sinker of the kind used by bottom fishermen. Though it cost only 7¢ at the base PX, it made a far more vivid indicator of the zero-gravity state than the electronic accelerometer in which the Air Force has invested millions. As my bottom, squeezed to insensible bloodlessness during the 4-g pullout, rose from the seat cushion, I felt the exhilaration of restored circulation (and noted the lasting aptness of the old barnstormer's motto: you fly by the seat of your pants). I "dropped" the sinker in front of my masked face. It stayed there, floating. The merest delicate touch sent it gliding, featherlike, right or left, up or down, forward or aft. I was as happy as I would have been with a stringless yoyo. This was one place where a lead balloon would make a hit.

It was over too soon. Pilot Brett had been too busy with his controls and indicators, and I had been too bemused by the otherworldliness of the phenomenon, to time our first excursion into weightlessness. Colonel Brett pulled up the nose again, regained altitude, and within a minute or so was asking: "Ready to try it again?" Down we dived and up into another pullout. Up went the g needle. I felt a crushing force, and then the ineffable relief of subgravity and the euphoria of zero gravity. This time it lasted longer. Again I toyed with the stringless yoyo, so delightedly that I did not notice when we began to slow down. By inertial force, the sinker glided forward from my upraised left hand. My grab for it was defeated by the shoulder harness. Over the hot mike I warned Brett: "There's a lead slug corning over your left shoulder." He looked up, saw the sinker gliding past his head in slow motion, bided his time and coolly upped the plane's nose. The movement dropped the sinker gently into his lap. As he passed it back, he also gave me a short piece of string, with an invitation to use it.

With different starting altitudes, angles of climb and speeds, we repeated the maneuver 18 times in little more than an hour's flying. The 4-g phase was miserable for me, unaccustomed to it, and I felt befuddled for a few seconds after each pullout. As we homed to Langley (going supersonic on the way), Brett told me that he had felt as clearheaded during weightlessness as in any other acrobatic flight, had never for an instant forgotten his oil-pressure gauge, which might easily have dipped dangerously low in these maneuvers. His clearheadedness showed that training can make a big difference.

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