How often do you get to hold a conversation with the crew of an F-18 Super Hornet? For that matter, how often do you get to fly home in one?
Kim Kovesci, executive director of MAPS Air Museum, guided the F-18 Super Hornet to its proper place on the ramp outside of the museum’s exhibition hangar.
He eagerly took on his duties as ground crew for the jet fighter Saturday. It was a special job.
His son sat in the second seat of this particular F-18, which would be placed on display at the museum for much of the weekend.
Lt. Benjamin Kovesci, a weapons system officer aboard the Navy fighter plane, flew from California Friday with Lt. Ryan Kimmel, the plane’s pilot. Professionally, Kovesci flew cross-country so that the two naval aviators could work toward getting their required flight hours in the aircraft. Personally, the trip home coincided with the wedding of a family member.
So, not long after Kovesci and Kimmel taxied the plane to MAPS Saturday morning from where they had left it after flying into Akron-Canton Airport the night before, father and son were on their way to the church. The plane stayed at MAPS, where it was an outdoor static display, fencing surrounding it, until the two aviators were scheduled to take off in it early Sunday afternoon.
While Kovesci and Kimmel still were in their flight suits, however, there also were public relations benefits to be derived from the jet’s appearance at MAPS. “The Navy likes us to show off its toys,” a soft-spoken but smiling Lt. Kovesci explained.
Now attached to the carrier U.S.S. Nimitz and based in California, Kovesci and Kimmel already served a combat deployment in 2011 on the carrier U.S.S. Ronald Reagan. Kovesci grew up in Green and graduated from Hoban High School in Akron in 2002, then graduated from Ohio State University in 2006 before joining the Navy and attending aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Fla. Kimmel, who grew up in California, attended the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., on the way to earning his wings about five years ago.
“I know Ben has always wanted to do this,” said Kim Kovesci, who served naval aviation as a member of a ground crew during the Vietnam era, while Ben’s grandfather was a navy pilot. “We’re very proud of him.”
Kovesci’s family and members of MAPS gathered around the plane as young Kovesci took them on “walk around” of his Super Hornet.
“It’s three years old, one of the newest ones we have,” Kovesci said. “But you can see it’s been painted several times and has grease all over it. We’re pretty tough on them.”
Indeed, when the combat plane is catapulted off a carrier it goes from zero to 150 knots (about 173 mph) in little more than two seconds, rising in that time to 200 feet in the air. Kovesci said the jet lands on the carrier at between 125 and 135 knots (144 mph to 155 mph.)
Page 2 of 2 - “In case we don’t catch a hook we have the speed to go back up,” he explained, noting that jets landing on a carrier deck touch down inches onto the deck. “There’s nothing more useless than having runway behind you.”
Kovesci pointed out the hook that protrudes from beneath the exhaust nozzles, and talked about spots on the wing that the aircraft carries weapons or extra fuel tanks.
“At full afterburners, we’ll go through a full load in 10 minutes,” he said. “It’s literally firing it like a fire hose.”
Those gathered around Kovesci listened attentively. Others talked to Lt. Kimmel, glancing at the plane as he speaks of what it’s like to fly in it.
How often do you get to hold a conversation with the crew of an F-18 Super Hornet?
For that matter, how often do you get to fly home in one? When sons return by air for visits with their families they usually arrive on a commercial airliner. Few get to cross the country in a jet fighter.
“He’s living every little boy’s dream,” said the elder Kovesci, glancing at his son with a smile. “We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time.”