the need for speed

D14_289_049xWhen my brother and I were little, my parents liked to take us to airshows. They have a photo of me, circa 1984, standing near the cockpit with a female fighter pilot. I wanted to be that woman. Top Gun, which came out when I was 8 (I choreographed a roller skating routine to Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone), solidified my fascination with fighter planes–and fighter pilots. (Volleyball scene, anyone?)

So, I was tickled when—after a pretty intense Google search—I found AU alumnus, Capt. Cliff Taylor, SPA/BA ’98. He’d be perfect, I thought, for POV: the opening spread in the magazine. (Read more about the plane image here.)

D14_289_030a“Diesel,” as he’s known to his fellow pilots, was game. He invited us to the D.C. Air National Guard’s 113th Wing at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland for a photo shoot. After our first shoot was snowed out, we rescheduled for early December. As you tell by the ominous grey skies, it was frigid (Maria used her Photoshop skills to make Cliff’s hands and cheeks less red), but it was a thrill to watch F-16s scream across the sky during the shoot. And everyone, from Cliff to his flight crew, couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating.

D14_289_044As we were wrapping up the shoot, Cliff told me I have a cool job. “This from the fighter pilot,” I replied with a laugh. While I may not pull 9Gs, it is pretty neat to work with people who do.