I Really Did Fly In A USAF Thunderbird!
I really did fly in an F-16 Fighting Falcon, an actual United States Air Force Thunderbird!
In October of 2011, the Sertoma Club of Lafayette hosted an air show at Lafayette Regional Airport and the USAF Thunderbirds were the stars of the show. To help promote the show, they allow a member of the media on a fly-along. It's not as simple as granting permission.
I had to get a thorough physical from my doctor AND a cardiologist. I had to meet height and weight requirements. They did background checks and all sort of other checks. The day of the fly-along, I had to be there two hours in advance to be fitted for the special flight gear. I also had to go through a special training. They taught me how to breathe. Yes, breathe.
Fighter pilots are fitted with these suits, special balloon-like clothing called "air bladders," and taught breathing techniques to keep the blood from pooling in their legs and feet when they hit two or more Gs. Basically, that's the amount of force being pressed against your body by gravity "mechanically" that can cause a person to lose consciousness.
Or cause your brain and stomach to divide, and make you toss your cookies. Ask me.
Lost lunch and all, I must tell you, we made it from Lafayette to somewhere over Texas in about 10 minutes. The initial, vertical climb from take-off into the blue, cloud-streaked sky was MAGNIFICENT. The barrel rolls had me giggling like a 5-year-old.
And it was one of the most spectacular, unbelievable, to-be-etched-in-my-memory-forever moments of my life. And I'd do it again tomorrow if I were able.