Scott Mayfield plays arguably the fastest game on earth for the New York Islanders, but hockey felt like kickball after the 28-year-old defenseman flew an F-16 Viper jet with his brother, Captain Patrick Mayfield of the United States Air Force.
One week of training and touring Holloman Air Force Base in Otero County, New Mexico, led to a flight that reached Mach 1.11, an estimated 852 miles per hour and faster than the speed of sound (761.2 mph) assuming an air temperature of 59 degrees. Scott was trained to handle G-force, ensure his body was in the best position, what to do in an emergency and had a couple of bags tied around his leg in case he felt sick.
The result was exhilarating and enlightening.
“I think every athlete strives to try to put themselves in a position where they’re focused and dialed in enough to perform at their highest level,” Scott said. “That’s what these guys do. Any little thing that goes wrong could be a big disaster. The attention to detail is what stood out the most. Even going into this flight today, they do this every day and it’s routine. How much little things they pay attention to, every little communication with each other, with the tower, all that stuff, it’s dialed in. It’s focused.”
Captain Mayfield, the eldest of three children, was inspired to join the Air Force by his grandfather, Chief Master Sergeant Willie Mercier. He came to Holloman after serving in South Korea, Italy and Afghanistan, graduating from the instructor course in April 2020, and that December was given ‘The Hammer’ award, presented to the instructor who upheld the highest standards. He spent the next 4-5 months enlisting Scott for the Optimizing the Human Weapon System (OHWS) program, when athletic trainers, strength coaches, soft tissue therapists and massage therapists help pilots prepare their bodies for the strength of the G-force and impacts to their neck and back.
‘The Hammer’ left extremely impressed with little brother.
“Not that I took it easy on him because I definitely didn’t, but we never really got too crazy, like some of the things we might have done when we were kids,” Captain Mayfield said. “The experience as a whole was awesome, just getting to do it with him. That’s something I never get to share with people.
“He ended up handling all the Gs and all the physical side of it fine, which I’m not surprised with the shape he’s in. He didn’t get sick either and we ended up having a great fight. It went exactly according to plan. I hit pretty much all the objectives I wanted to hit, and he held on for the entire thing. Really only positive things to say from the back seat.”
Scott Mayfield has made a name for himself as a rugged defenseman for seven seasons. His attention to detail on the ice, ability to make split-second decisions and do the dirty work helped the Islanders reach the 2020 Eastern Conference Final and 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals. They lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games in 2020 and seven games last season.
That, Scott said, pales to what the military does to keep the country safe. He visited Patrick in 2016 when he was stationed in South Korea and at a demilitarized, 2 1/2-mile fortified border that separated North and South Korea.
“What they do is definitely on another level,” Scott said. “It shed light on, ‘Yeah, hockey’s just a game.’ They have a dangerous job. They do something for real that helps a ton of people.”
Patrick’s occupation has kept him away from Scott, a rare exception when they were reunited when Patrick was welcomed by the Islanders as one of the Military Heroes of the Game on Military Appreciation Night against the Boston Bruins at Nassau Coliseum on Feb 29, 2020. There were together again that Thanksgiving and will be in Colorado next week when Scott marries his fiancée, Emily. The quality time shared will be cherished, just like Scott’s rare experience of flying an F-16, co-piloted by someone he trusts with his life.
“I’ll just remember that flight,” Scott said. “I don’t think anyone really gets the chance to feel what it’s like to be in a fighter jet, so that’s something I’ll take away and just doing it together.”