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Published August 10 2011

Two VIP educators get ride in Blue Angels jet

FARGO – Reyne Armbrust climbed out of the cockpit ever so carefully, a dazed looked on her face, and stepped onto the hangar’s concrete floor with the surefootedness of someone who’d just sailed across the Atlantic.

“Holy,” she said, apparently still too stunned to add the “cow.”

Armbrust teaches chemistry at Red River High School in Grand Forks, but she found herself on the learning end of a fast-paced physics lesson Tuesday.

She and Fargo South High School Principal Todd Bertsch each spent about an hour in the rear seat of a Navy Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornet, experiencing a thrill ride both struggled to put into words.

“It was incredible, surreal, a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Bertsch said.

The rides serve as both an educational and recruiting tool for the Navy and a promotional tool for the Blue Angels’ performance Saturday and Sunday at the Fargo AirSho.

Navy officials at district recruiting offices nominated the two educators for the flight.

The Chief of Naval Air Training makes the final call in choosing which VIPs – very influential people who are involved in their communities and can benefit recruiting efforts – go along for the ride, said Lt. Dave Tickle, pilot of Blue Angels No. 7, the team’s only two-seater.

“We’re not looking to recruit everybody across America,” he said. “We just want to inspire people.”

Bertsch, who endured at least seven times the force of gravity during a few maneuvers, was inspired not only by the ride but also the Blue Angels pilots.

“When you don’t experience it every day, there’s certainly a pressure you’re not accustomed to,” he said. “But you certainly appreciate what they do and how they do it and what they do it with.”

Some maneuvers, such as the loop, were “very enjoyable,” Bertsch said.

Armbrust, whose husband and sons welcomed her off the jet with flowers, commented on the pilot’s nice demeanor.

“He was talking all kinds of physics up there,” she said.

Blue Angels Crew Chief Travis Simpson, a native of Edina, Minn., gave the passengers pointers on how to stay conscious during stunts, explaining how flexing their legs and core would maintain blood pressure to their brains.

Unfortunately, there were no such pointers for preventing nausea, and the Hornet’s fuel tanks weren’t the only things emptier by the time Bertsch and Armbrust landed.

Bertsch said he plans to share his experience with students – “to an extent.”

“Unfortunately, I don’t think I can show the video,” he said, laughing.

“Like everything else, it’s a chance in education to learn and to share,” he added with a more serious tone. “And if we can get some of our students to continue to go into this profession, then we all win.”

Video: Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki takes to the skies with the Blue Angels

Click here to read more on the Fargo AirSho

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