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Published August 08 2011

Video: Forum reporter prepares to fly with Blue Angels

FARGO – I’m a firm believer in the power of practice. It may not always make perfect, but it usually gives you a good idea of what to expect when game time rolls around.

So when I passed my physical exam and got the green light to fly with the Blue Angels on Tuesday, I figured I should give it my all – which is to say I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to donate my breakfast to the inside of a $40 million fighter jet.

As much as I’m looking forward to the once-in-a-lifetime experience, I’ve heard some minor horror stories about other local reporters who have flown with the Blues as part of the Fargo AirSho’s promotional efforts.

Two years ago, the Forum’s own John Lamb had to cut the flight short so he wouldn’t redecorate the cockpit. Another reporter had to lie down in the grass for a long time after landing. Another briefly blacked out during the flight and bonked his head on the video camera that records passengers in the two-seat F/A-18 Hornet.

Trying to prepare for such a flight seems like a futile exercise. But with a brother who works as an aerobatics instructor at the University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences in Grand Forks, I decided some practice is better than none.

My oldest brother, Neil, was nice enough to take me up for stunts in a Super Decathlon, a single-prop, high-wing, 180-horsepower aerobatics aircraft.

By comparison, each of the Hornet’s jet engines produces 17,750 pounds of thrust with afterburners.

The Decathlon tops out at 155 mph, the Hornet at 1,190 mph.

So the speed and G-forces wouldn’t be the same, but many of the maneuvers are similar.

It was a gloomy June day in Grand Forks when we stepped onto the airfield. An airport operations crewman offered a not-so-reassuring assessment of the weather: “You sure you want to fly in that today?”

My pilot assured me the sprinkles and stiff north breeze wouldn’t be an issue – and they weren’t. The rolls, loops and spins were smooth. I took his advice and tensed my leg and abdominal muscles to keep the blood from being pulled from my brain while pulling 3.5 to 4 G’s. No blackouts, no stomach sickness.

But the training wheels come off Tuesday. I’ve been told to expect twice the

G-forces during the Blue Angels flight – sort of like trading in a Ford Focus for a Ferrari.

So I’ll probably take the advice retired Maj. Gen. Mike Haugen of the North Dakota National Guard offered at a recent AirSho Committee meeting.

Haugen, a former commander of the Fargo-based 119th Fighter Wing and a pilot with thousands of hours of flying time, suggested eating a banana or two before the flight.

The bananas won’t stop me from getting sick, he explained, “but at least they taste the same coming up as they do going down.”

Come to think of it, maybe I’ll skip breakfast.



Click here to read more on the Fargo Airsho


Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528