Flying with the Blues: Reaching new heights, pulling major G's
Flying with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels… It’s an honor less than one percent of people living in the United States can say they have done.
Hannah Mackenzie is now part of that elite group, after her ride ahead of the Pensacola Beach Air Show.
The F/A-18 Hornet can reach a max speed of 1.8 Mach, that's about 1,400 miles per hour. To put that into perspective, the speed of sound is 767 miles per hour.
To prepare for her flight, Hannah sought out advice from those who have flown before.
"Most crucial is that you have a fresh manicure,” said former WEAR-TV weather anchor, Meg McNamara. “This is because, you are most likely going to get sick, and you're going to be holding a bag in front of your face and at least you want to have your nails done to distract all the viewers from the fact that you're throwing up on live television."
"Pay attention when they are teaching you how not to pass out,” said former WEAR-TV meteorologist, Christian Garman. “Because for me, the coolest part of the experience was when the tunnel vision would come when you're pulling those G's it was totally happening, and you can see the darkness coming then you fight it off and sure enough, it went away and it was exceptional."
"To be honest, I kind of want to see you pass out,” said former WEAR-TV reporter, David Gonzalez. “Because let's be honest it's going to make great television! And make sure you enjoy it. Go to the max... Try to pull as many G's as you can."
After signing some legal forms, then comes the pre-flight briefing, given by Petty Officer 1ST Class, Anthony Batronis.
"I’m not going to set you up for failure here,” said Batronis. “I’ll make sure you're all good to go!”
Batronis went over how to avoid passing out – by using the Anti-G Straining Maneuver (AGSM), better known as the ‘HIC maneuver’ – coined for the noise you make while performing it.
He also talked about what to steer clear of in the cock pit.
"All this black and yellow right here... That's no touch,” said Batronis. “It either causes you to leave the aircraft or things fall off the aircraft."
The scariest of all, he covered what to do in case of an emergency.
"He's going to say, ‘eject, eject, eject’... On the third ejection, he's going to pull his handle,” said Batronis. “You do not need to do anything, the way it's set up, when he pulls his handle, a canopy, you and him will go in less than 2.5 seconds."
After the briefing, came the flight suit. Then, a quick selfie with pilot, Lieutenant Andre Webb, and we were in the air, immediately pulling six G’s.
Almost straight away, we hit some pretty big maneuvers. Rolls, loops, even flying upside down.
Twenty-eight minutes in and those G's were catching up to me.
As previously advised, I didn’t eat a big breakfast, but it turns out you are supposed to eat more than three crackers. Flying on a near-empty stomach can disrupt your stomach acid… resulting in dry heaving and vomiting bile. But as they say, puke and rally!
Lastly, the big finale – just before the landing. It’s the maneuver that makes all the noise! This is where we pulled 7.1G’s. The G-limit in this aircraft is 7.5.
After the flight, crew told me it would feel as though I had just run a marathon. They lied – it felt like I had run several marathons – but it was a phenomenal experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life!