Commentary: Wrong choices on the F-22

The two members of the F-18 demonstration team standing on the tarmac in front of me could only shake their heads in disbelief.

What Maj. Paul "Max" Moga made the F-22 Raptor do in the skies over the mountains that skirt Las Vegas shouldn’t be possible — and they knew it.

The damned thing flew backward.

Of course, Moga doesn’t explain it that way. Called a tail slide, the maneuver involves positioning the jet’s nose at a 75-degree angle upward, then using the rudder pedals and the stick and throttle to keep it in place. As the plane runs out of forward airspeed, it slides backward — under control. In any other jet, more likely than not, it would be tumbling out of control.

"It’s an unnatural exercise in a fighter," Moga said during a phone interview Thursday from Langley, Va., his home base. "It’s a pure combination of flight control and the engine and is a great example of what this jet can do. It’s fairly routine."

Spoken like a seasoned pilot with more than 1,800 fighter hours and more than 250 combat hours flying the F-15C over Yugoslavia and Iraq.

To read the complete column, visit The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.