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If you're a Navy pilot, you want to fly an F-18.
Because you want to fly the fastest, meanest fighter available.
That's what Lt. Brian Swayne and Lt. Brian Boice were flying this weekend when they stopped in La Crosse during a training flight.
Their destination was no coincidence. Swayne is the son of Charlie and Carol Swayne of La Crosse and Boice is the son of Bob and Kathy Boice of Harmony, Minn. Since both had Coulee Region connections, they figured the flight from California to Wisconsin would be a perfect training flight. Swayne, who used to fly F-14s, said the F-18 can fly farther, carry more weapons and inflict more damage. As the guy inside the F-18, that's a pretty good feeling, Swayne said.
And it's about to get better, he said, because they soon will be equipped with helmet-sighted radar which will allow them to bomb in the direction they are looking.
Besides, Swayne said with a grin, "It still has that new jet smell. And it can go from 150 to 0 in two seconds flat." When you're landing on a carrier and every second counts, "That's definitely a kick in the pants." For Boice, who was about to take the controls Sunday afternoon, this would be only his third training run - and that was counting the flight into La Crosse. But he gets the same rush of excitement that Swayne gets when he climbs into the F-18. When asked if it was everything he expected, he replied, "It's more."
And that's why Charlie Swayne and Bob Boice wish they could trade places with their sons.
"If I could go for a ride in this thing, I'd give my right arm," said Bob Boice, as he prepared to pose for a photograph with his son on Sunday afternoon. One year for his birthday, Charlie Swayne got to engage his son in a simulated dogfight. Brian even let his father inflict a little damage before he got serious and demonstrated just who is the Navy pilot in the family.
Carol Swayne also got a turn in the simulator, but no dogfights for her - simulated or otherwise. "I got airsick," she said with a laugh.
This article appeared in the May 7, 2001 edition of the LaCrosse Tribune and is printed here with permission.
By Geri Parlin
LaCrosse Tribune staff