Picture yourself soaring 15,000m (50,000 ft.) above the earth in an English Electric Lightning, the fighter jet used to intercept the Russian “Bear” bombers during the Cold War. Ready to goand break the sound barrier?
Flash through the sky above Cape Town, South Africa, and over the Atlantic Ocean, climbing up to 150,000m (500,000 ft.). Take a look out the cockpit window and see the curvature of the earth. With your adrenaline pumping and heart pounding, you come back down to earth with thrilling memories and a story to tell.
Thunder City operates the world’s only twin-engine, two-seater (side-by-side) supersonic interceptor, and you can hitch a ride on this Lightning. (Lightning aircraft still hold a number of world climb-to-altitude records.) The day starts with a briefing session, which includes survival training, ejection seat training, and oxygen management. The flight itself is only about 30 to 40 minutes due to the fuel consumption of up to 500 liters (132 gal.) per minute with the afterburners on.
If you want to fly high, but not touch space, Thunder City offers rides in other types of fighter jets. If you like roller coasters, try a 50- to 60-minute flight in the Hawker Hunter, an air-to-air combat jet that’s agile and reacts extremely quickly to loops and rolls that create up to 4 g-forces. You can also fly as the navigator in the back of a Buccaneer, a nuclear strike attack bomber, assisting the pilot with the selection of transponder codes as you fly in sorties during a mock attack. During the 50- to 60-minute flight, you reach up to 5 g-forces for 5 to 10 seconds while going extremely fast—just subsonic—and low underneath the radar screen. Thunder City also has a Strikemaster, a subsonic jet pilot trainer. You get briefed on managing the cockpit and undergo training in the jet, which is great for aerobatics and famous for its spin maneuvers.
Aside from your sky-high adventures, there are plenty of activities and entertainment options in Cape Town. Take the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, which dominates the city’s skyline, for 360-degree views of the region The ferry to Robben Island, the prison-turned-museum, takes you where former South Africa president Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Oenophiles can spend a day sampling vintages at the many wineries in wine country, which is within a 2-hour drive of the city. Visit the tiny penguins that strut around nearby Boulder Beach. If you like sports, you can go surfing, sandboarding, hiking, or mountain biking.
Thunder City (tel 27/21-934-8007; www.thundercity.com).
WHEN TO GO: Year-round.
Airport: Cape Town International Airport.
$$$ Radisson Blue Hotel Waterfront Capetown, Beach Rd., Granger Bay (tel 800/333-3333 in the U.S. or 27/21-441-3000; www.radisson.com). $$$ The Twelve Apostles, Victoria Rd. (tel 27/21-437-9000; www.12apostleshotel.com). $$ Winchester Mansions, 221 Beach Rd. (tel 27/21-434-2351; www.winchester.co.za).