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A Dong-A Ilbo Reporter Takes a Flight Aboard an Air Force KF-16

A Dong-A Ilbo Reporter Takes a Flight Aboard an Air Force KF-16

Posted June. 25, 2005 06:06,   


It was 30 seconds before the take-off. My heart was pounding so hard, I could hardly breathe. I felt my mouth drying up because of the tension. Finally, we received permission to take off.

On June 21, in the morning, I was on the runway on the Central Front, which is assigned to the 19th Air Wing of the Korean Air Force. Squadron Leader Gong Seung-bae (39th class, Air Force Academy) and I were on board a state-of-the-art KF-16 with a turbojet engine rated at 29,000 lbs of thrust. As the engine roared to full power, I flinched and groaned. My whole body leaned against the back of the seat. It felt as if I was glued to the seat.

Outside the window, the runway passed by our fighter. As the plane soared, the sky seemed to go around and I felt dizzy. One minute after take-off, the fighter reached 7,000 feet (approximately 2,300m) and stayed there. I could look out the cockpit and see the landscape.

“Oh, the sky! Countless defenders of the country fought to the death to protect the clear sky. But throughout the country’s turbulent history, the mountains and rivers never lost their beauty.”

This year marks the 55th anniversary of the Korean War—a fratricidal war. Thinking how many young soldiers bled to death in that war, I felt a lump rise in my throat. I wondered if the fallen soldiers somewhere up there in heaven might be proud of the air-force pilots who help protect the nation.

The cockpit console had about 10 panels, including a green heads-up display (HUD) on which countless numbers and signals constantly flickered. Through my helmet, I could hear Squadron Leader Gong and ground control communicating, and mechanical noise. The communication and noise never stopped.

It took about 10 minutes to approach Mt. Seorak. To the north I saw the DMZ running across in the middle of the Korean peninsula. Korean territorial airspace has been divided into two for more than 50 years. Around that divided point in the air, the pilot steered his fighter southward along the great Baekdu Mountain Range. I felt deeply depressed.

I saw a thick forest far below. The blazing summer sun shone on the forest, making it look greener. To the left, I caught a glimpse of the eastern coastline.

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com