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NASCAR-BGN: Mike Cope and Mike McLaughlin to Fly F-16

20 June 1998

Syracuse, NY - In an effort to promote public awareness in their region, the New York Air National Guard's 174th Fighter Wing based at Hancock Field in Syracuse, NY, is partnering with Team 34 Racing drivers Mike Cope and Mike McLaughlin during the week of the Lysol 200 Busch Series race at Watkins Glen, NY. The promotion will involve flights for Cope and McLaughlin in F-16 fighter jets on Thursday morning June 25th, the 174th Wing logo on all three Team 34 cars in the Watkins Glen race, a 174th Fighter Wing information display at the track and a F-16 flyover before the race.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Slim Jim #30 driver Mike Cope. "I won't know what to say about it until I do it. I can't imagine passing up a chance like this, I just hope I don't find out I was insane to do it."

Mike McLaughlin, currently second in Busch Series points and driver of the Goulds Pump #34, is also excited. "Since I'm from Waterloo, NY, not far from Syracuse, I've always heard about the 174th Fighter Wing. It's an honor for me to get to fly with them and to help them with this promotion. The flight is going to be awesome."

The event will begin Monday, June 22nd for the two drivers when they will report to Hancock Field for egress training. "The training will cover a wide range of things," said Mark Atkinson, Safety Manager for the 174th Fighter Wing. "They need to learn how to strap in the plane, what to touch and what not to touch in the cockpit, what happens in the event of an emergency and they have to punch out of the plane. We'll hang them in the harness like they were caught in a tree and show them how to get out of it. They will be fitted for flight gear and will meet with a flight surgeon who will tell them about the G forces they will experience, pressure build up and how to breathe in the plane."

"The flight on Thursday morning will be for about an hour and a half and will go over the Thousand Islands and Adirondack Mountains where we have a range. When they take off, the pilot will light the afterburners and stand the jet on its tail like a rocket leaving a launching pad, they will go up to 10,000 feet altitude in about 3 seconds. They will get to experience a number of aerobatic maneuvers, make some low altitude passes over the range and possibly get to grab the stick and feel what it's like to fly the plane. The jet will hit speeds of Mach 1 or about 600 miles per hour so it should produce some memories for the drivers to remember for a long time."