Category Archives: F-16

Fly diva fly!! My day with USAF Thunderbirds

I have often said, that what we put into the universe, will manifest itself and that we are to be therefore careful what we think and say- I gotta tell you, this has been a summer for the record books and an excellent reminder of what is possible.

I am an educator so when June rolls around, all I can think of is doing something mindless, daring and free! I started with a trip to Puerto Rico where I climbed two waterfalls and as if that wasn’t daring enough, I got back home and promptly cut off all my hair. For a black woman, that is worse than giving birth to triplets. Another story for another time but the best part of this summer, was something that even I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams!
In early July, I received a call
From a gentlemen claiming to be from the United States Air Force and the purpose of his call was to inform me, that someone nominated me as a hometown hero for transforming lives and because they were aware of something insane on my bucket list, they thought I would be an excellent candidate to fly with the US Air Force Thunderbirds!

It took me a minute to find my voice and pick my jaw up from
The floor but once I got myself together, I realized this was indeed very real and I was about to embark on a journey I would not soon forget.

After several weeks of filling out appropriate forms, signing away my right to sue the government if I died and having a physical from
A doctor who would clear me medically, I was ready to go.

On August 12, 2014, bright and early in the morning, my family and I drove to the 177th fighter wing of the NJ AirNational Guard in Egg Harbor and reported to Sergeant Andrew Mosley.

I was then introduced to three crew members of the Thunderbirds and could barely contain myself when I was taken outside to see the F-16 Fighter jet I would be flying in with my pilot Major Michael Fisher who I would meet later.

The intensive crash course began. I had to be fitted into a flight suit, put on a G-suit over that and taught in a couple of hours everything I needed to know about ejection & what all the apparatus was for. The next person I saw was the Team doctor who was hilarious and scary at once because he had to tell me all that could go wrong in the air and taught me how to take G-sips once the plane went into G-force.

It was the closest I came
To saying nevermind. But I was resolved to do this.

The last person I spoke with was Major Fisher, who alleviated all my fears, gave me instructions about the cockpit and showed me some of the maneuvers we would be doing if I felt up to it. My excitement began to build over the nerves because I realized I was really going to do this!

I had to hydrate by drinking more liquids than usual
So after one last potty break, I was told to meet the pilot out on the Tarmac.

Imagine walking out and seeing cameras everywhere and some of the most handsome men I have ever seen in my life who shook my hands and said their job was to make sure the plane was secure for our safety.

They did just that. I strapped my vest on and anchored it to my body, then climbed into the cockpit and had my mask and helmet secured while my oxygen was hooked in and tested.

When the cockpit closed and the engine fired up, I knew this was it and I would experience something I would never do again, so I resolved to enjoy it while patting my barf bags just in case I needed them.

We took off and went vertically 17 thousand feet in under 5 seconds!! I could NOT believe what I was experiencing and utilized all the things I learned so that I could breathe once we went into G-force which felt like my entire insides flew up to my brain.

Major Fisher flew to restricted airspace and performed some of the stunts you would see in an air show. He talked me through each one and didn’t do them until I was ready. It felt like I was in heaven!!

We made it through most of the stunts but that last one, a 360 degree roll twice was more than enough for my tummy and I got sick. I was able to drop my mask and do it neatly without making a mess too. Bravo to me. My entire flight was recorded in the cockpit.

After an hour of experiencing the thrill of my lifetime, we flew back.
Once we landed and I got out of that cockpit, I was incredibly happy to have been chosen as one of a few civilians who will ever be able to say this was something they experienced!!

I was given some pretty neat memorabilia signed by the entire crew, my name was put on the cockpit and I was interviewed by NBC.

The pride and awe on my sons faces was priceless and they learned from my bravery that nothing is off limits and if you can dream it, you can achieve it!

Thank you so much to the Crew of the US Air Force Thunderbirds for the thrill of a lifetime and thank you Allison Mine-Phillips for nominating me as a hometown hero!

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