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A new San Diego location gives SoCal the chance to operate high-performance stunt planes

Written By: Shane Kendall
Photography By: Sarah Nail Photography High-Flying Stunts with Sky Combat Ace and Tony Hawk

Have you ever imagined yourself behind the wheel of a dipping and diving stunt plane? Sky Combat Ace teamed up with Tony Hawk and The Tony Hawk Foundation to promote the second location of its adrenaline-fueled, high-flying acrobatic experiences in sunny San Diego on Saturday, Sept. 26. The four-month-old location gives Southern California residents a place to pursue mid-air combat simulations so real that by the end of it you’ll feel like an accomplished fighter pilot. The flights offer the chance to fully stunt an Extra 330LC with the peace of mind that one of SCA’s experienced pilots is in the seat behind you every step of the way.

Depending on your capacity for adrenaline, a ride here will run you anywhere from $199 for 15 minutes, up to $1, 999 for the heart-pounding 40-minute Operation Red Flag package. Here you are placed with at least two others in an all-out dogfight in the sky. With simulated gun triggers, shooting at your opponent is brought to life with smoke that billows from the back, followed by a downward spiral forced by the master pilot. All the excitement of actual in-air combat, minus the actual danger, makes it as realistic a simulation as possible.

Richard “Tex” Coe, creator of Sky Combat Ace, and Tony Hawk come from completely different backgrounds. One was a fighter pilot in the Air Force, the other a half-pipe skater from San Diego. Their drive to follow their passion brought them together, and now their bold moves are enabling others to share the same thrill-filled experiences.

The Sky Combat Ace event offered the public some insight into what Sky Combat Ace is all about, as well as a casual meet-and-greet with Hawk, giving skateboarding fans a chance to share a smile and a photo with one of the greats. Hawk’s charity organization brings skate parks to cities. Before landing to answer  questions and host the hangar party, the 47-year-old skateboarding legend tested his limits with his own aerial combat and aerobatic training experience.

Q: What did you first think about Sky Combat Ace?

Tony Hawk: I thought you were just along for the ride. I thought it was combat simulation and it was like, “Oh look, there they are, we’re gonna fly around them” and I had no idea I would take control of the plane.

Q: How do you think you did?

TH: Well, I kept my breakfast down. So I felt like that was a plus. I think we did the full profile. Definitely by the end of it I felt affected but excited. It’s strange, like even when you’re doing it, you might be feeling a little timid or be feeling a little queasy; you’re still excited to do it. You know what I mean? That doesn’t slow down your enthusiasm at all.

Q: As far as skateboarding and Sky Combat Ace, would you rate them on a similar scale?

TH: I would rate this similar to skateboarding in that there is an excitement level and adrenaline rush and there is a perceived danger factor. It’s not really that it’s dangerous; it’s just more that people think it’s dangerous as soon as you mention it. And same with skateboarding: “Oh, you can get hurt.” I mean, you can get hurt, but you do it safely. And same with this type of thing—as long as you do it in the safest way possible and with the experts that they have here, there is no danger.

Q: Who is this for?

TH: Well, my gut reaction is that this type of thing is for people who are thrill seekers. But after doing it and feeling how safe it really is, I feel like it’s for anyone. Anyone that can handle a little bit of action. And it’s not what you’d expect. It’s not something that you feel out of control.

Q: Would you do it again?

TH: Yeah, I’m gonna do it again! I’m gonna do it again on the way home right now!

Q: I overheard earlier you were surprised by how much control they gave you over the airplane.

TH: The most surprising thing to me was being able to truly fly the plane. I didn’t know that was an element to this. I didn’t know I would have complete control of it, to be able to spin and flip and stall. I stalled an airplane by myself today. I’ve never flown anything anywhere. That’s crazy.

Q: How many Gs did you get up to?

TH: I think we were pulling like 8 or 10 Gs right out of the gate. And you feel it for sure.

Q: How would you describe Sky Combat Ace in a few words?

TH: Sky Combat Ace is exhilarating, exciting and totally surprising.

Q: Tell me about The Tony Hawk Foundation.

TH: My foundation helps support public skate parks in low-income areas. And we try to empower communities that already have the initiative to get a park by giving them resources and guidance and funding. It’s more about trying to empower them then just coming in and providing a skate park.

Q: How many skate parks have you made so far?

TH: We’ve helped to fund over 500. And we’ve started an international initiative through Skateistan.com. So we helped to fund a park in Cambodia, and now a school and skate park in South Africa.

Q: How long does it take to build a skate park from start to finish?

TH: Well, bureaucracy usually dictates how long it takes to get a skate park done. So ideally, if they space is there and the funding is there, it could take just a month or so. But it’s usually cutting through red tape and convincing city councils and funding and getting the space and all of that.

Q: About how much does it cost to build a skate park?

TH: They’re all different. I mean, there’s so many different variables to that. Some parks are less than $50, 000, some are a million. And it all depends on how ambitious the group is that’s doing it.

Q: How do people find out when your skate parks open up?

TH: You can follow through our website, TonyhHawkFoundation.org, but generally if there is a park opening and it’s in your area, you probably know about it if you are a skater. Most cities like to brag about getting a park so you’ll see it in the press. They think they’re being progressive.

Q: Are they?

TH: No! They’re mostly just catering to the needs of a new generation.

Q: If you didn’t skate what do you think you would be doing?

TH: Um, probably be doing video production because I dabbled in that quite a bit. And probably playing violin again, because I quit playing violin for skating.

Q: Do you enjoy other sports?

TH: Yeah, I surf and I snowboard and I’ve been doing those almost as long as I’ve been skating.

Q: So are you just as good in the half-pipe as skating?

TH: No, not at all. I think I stopped trying to progress on snowboards in the half-pipe when I did a 540 and the next one I tried I landed on my face.

Q: Do you have a half-pipe in your backyard?

TH: I have a little skate park area. So it’s not officially a half-pipe but more like a bowl with pyramids.

Q: What was your biggest challenge?

TH: My biggest challenge, in terms of my life choices, was probably making a career out of my passion, because that wasn’t something that was established when I started. You really couldn’t make a living at skating. Taking risks and making it happen, I guess.

Q: Do you have any advice for kids skating now?

TH: Follow your passion. Do it because you love it. Don’t do it because you think it’s a ticket to fame or fortune.

Native Knowledge: Stuntin’ Is A Habit

Hammerhead: The plane shoots straight up in the air until gravity forces it to make a last second turn to flying position.

Tail slide: The plane flies straight up until coming to a dead stop. Gravity pulls the plane backwards toward the ground until flinging back in a flyable position.

Lomcvek (Polish for “hangover”): A somewhat unimaginable end-over-end forward cartwheel through the sky.

Sky Combat Ace
2015 N Marshall Ave
El Cajon, CA 92020
888.494.5850 | 
www.skycombatace.com