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    Posted June 11, 2012 by
    Robins, AFB, Georgia
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Salute to troops

    More from icharles1

    A flight of a lifetime aboard the Blue Angels


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     icharles1 says he was invited to fly with the Blue Angels, which is the second oldest formal flying team in the world. He says the experience was literally a dream of his since childhood. 'It is hard to describe the experience,' he starts. 'Take the one passion you had from when you were a child and just do it, and you think you know what it is going to be like, but it is so much better,' he says.
    - Jareen, CNN iReport producer

    ROBINS, AFB, Ga. -- The thrust. The high G pulls. The spectacular views of our earth from inside an incredible high performance military aircraft.

    The images tell only half the story of my exclusive flight aboard a U.S. Navy Blue Angels F/A-18B Hornet out of Robins, AFB near Macon.

    The blue and yellow F/A-18 sat on the flight line under blue skies awaiting her crew -- myself and her pilot Lt. Mark Tedrow.

    I have carried a love for aviation since I was a child. My father began putting me behind the controls of Cessna planes as we soared at 20,000 feet when I was just five. He would be in my heart on this day.

    Dressed in my navy blue flight suit, I climbed aboard the high performance jet.

    The Blue Angels crew chief assisted my ingress and strapped me in with a 10-point harness to secure me in my seat.

    Lt. Tedrow then followed up to give this military jet rookie a few preflight words and to ensure I was familiar with the cockpit controls.

    The canopy closed and the jet came to life. Lt. Tedrow brought the craft's single APU (auxiliary power unit) on line and the engines heated up.

    My cockpit's glass displays began popping up showing me altitude, direction and a wings level attitude.

    Upon clearance, we began rolling forward and then slowly began a 180-degree turn to taxi out to runway 33 at Robins. I was all smiles as I logged my first feet aboard this magnificent jet.

    During the taxi out, Lt. Tedrow kept me comfortable with words of encouragement and what to expect at "lift-off". He also told me to arm my ejection seat with the safe and arm device to my right.

    The F/A-18B received clearance from Robins tower and we began moving down runway 33. Faster and faster we moved as Lt. Tedrow began calling out speeds, "100 knots. 160..."

    I held my breath as I looked out the canopy watching the ground rush by us.

    We took flight for a few seconds to retract the landing gear, and then Lt. Tedrow stated here comes lift-off. I began to smile.


    Pointed nearly nose up and with the feeling of six-hundred pounds of sandbags on my chest, the ground left us in a hurry as we soared into the blue skies over central Georgia.

    We flew toward a designated flight box over southern Georgia to perform feats of aeronautical strength and discipline.

    We started out with a 180-degree roll which allowed me for the first time in my life to look down upon our planet with a 300-degree field of view.

    Looking down from this attitude it is very different than seeing earth right side up. From this cupola, you can see what you are directly over and what's off to both your left and right sides.

    Lt. Tedrow was then ready to shake me up a bit and we were ready to pull some G's.

    We started out with a 5G left banking turn with the nose pitched up slightly. It was strong with the feeling of 800 pounds of sandbags on my chest and the exhilaration of pushing the limit's of what my body would allow.

    I felt great and my stomach never flinched.

    Next up, it was time to chase that demon in the sky - Mach 1.

    Calling out our air speeds, Lt. Tedrow accelerated the blue and yellow craft faster and faster once again 300 knots... 400."

    You could feel the craft gaining more energy and we were really moving out now, "500 knots. 600... and there's Mach .95... .96... there's .98 Mach", Tedrow announced and then throttled down his engines as not to create a sonic boom over the town below.

    We achieved Mach .98 or 655 knots or 752 miles per hour. Now that was fast. I am still grinning at that.

    He noticed I was a chance taker in the air and lined us up for a maneuver which I have waited my whole life for -- fly in zero gravity.

    Lt. Tedrow angled the Hornet to allow for a negative G attitude. Thus, for about 25 seconds I was lifted out of my seat as I flew over earth in a microgravity environment.

    It was an incredible feeling.

    We flew a few more 360-degree rolls and Tedrow made a second straight vertical climb. I felt great and I recall never wanting it to end.
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