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One Crazy Jet Ride With the Blue Angels

By: Chad Morgenthaler

I will admit that I have a pretty cool job.   My office is a 21-foot bass boat normally launched on some of the best fisheries in the nation. Like any other profession, in order to be successful I work extreamly hard and days off are far and few in between. Recently I was afforded an opportunity that was too good to pass up, and I was more than happy to sacrifice a few of my precious days off.

Along with having a pretty cool job I’ve also been able to take advantage of some pretty rewarding perks.  Last October during the PAA Corporate Cup in Florence Alabama my sponsor, Jasper Engines and Transmissions, were approached by a lady inquiring if I would be interested in a VIP flight with the Naval Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels.    I knew this was an opportunity of a lifetime afforded to very few.   I was honored just to be considered, but I did have a few butterflies about the thought of going supersonic in an F/A- 18 Hornet.

Once approved by the pilots, and cleared by my physician, I received an official invitation to meet the squadron the last week in February during their winter training at El Centro Naval Facility in California.   It’s here in the Imperial Valley where the 4 diamond pilots and the two solo pilots prefect the maneuvers that thousands enjoy during show season.   We were fortunate enough to receive front row seats during their practices runs, and I really came to appreciate the Team’s intense training.

Before arriving at the facility I thought that the highlight of my trip would be the hair raising 45-minute ride with Lieutenant Ben Walborn in the #7 jet.   I soon realized that the VIP ride was really just icing on the cake.

I have always had regrets about not joining the military, so I was excited about viewing a glimpse of military life and touring the Naval Facility.   For me, professional bass fishing is a recent profession.  In my prior careers I served as an EMT, volunteer firefighter, and 13 years a professional firefighter and arson investigator with the City of Carbondale IL.  I have always had a desire to serve and help other people.   So to say that I was impressed by the dedication, hard work, and sacrifices that these fine young men and women make everyday defending our country, is truly an understatement.

The Blue Angels are a piece of American Naval history that spans 63 years.    They were formed after World War II to aid recruitment and to retain interest in Naval Aviation.   They’ve been through a few changes over the years, but today they are the face of the Navy, goodwill ambassadors, and representative of our fine Sailors and Marines.   

I had complete confidence that I was in very capable hands by the time my scheduled flight rolled around.   These pilots are like well oiled machines, and the jets are inspected after every flight and continually subjected to maintenance checks.  I was not concerned at all about the possibility of taking a “bonus ride” via the ejection seat.   I was, however, concerned about my body withstanding the rigors or G-Force and not passing out during my ride, or worse yet, getting sick.    

After being briefed about the maneuver to counteract the effects of G-Force, strapped into the 12-point harness, shown where the “comfort bags” were, and where to place them “incase” I had to fill one, it was time for my pilot and I to take to the sky.  I was defiantly pumped for the flight.

I still to this day have a very hard time describing and wrapping my head around the flight.   It was an amazing experience zipping through cannons, flying upside-down, sideways, loops, and experiencing 7.2 G-Force without passing out, or getting sick.    It was by far the wildest rollercoaster ride that I will ever experience and one that took me a few hours to recuperate from.   After the flight, the thought of the Blue Angels practicing and perfecting their shows two and sometimes three times a day six days a week during winter training, is a testament to their dedication and fine military training.   As an American, this makes me very proud.

I had the distinct privilege of being able to share the experience with one of my good friends, Bob Richardson.   Bob flew right after me with Lieutenant Ben Walborn in the same #7 jet. 

Bob will air our flight and visit to El Centro Naval Facility during a spring episode of Outdoors in the Heartland.   Make sure and check my web site, or Bob’s  for station and airing schedule.  I’m sure it will be a heck of a good show!      

 A special “Thanks” to all of my sponsors: Jasper Engines and Transmissions, Yamaha Motors, Ranger Boats, Lunker Lure & Hawg Caller, Svanda GM Motor Group, Trilene Line, Abu Garcia, E21 Rods, Minn Kota, Plano, Power Pole, and Nameoki Village Marine.

Make sure and logon to my website and signup for my Fan Club.  E-newsletters are forwarded monthly and one lucky winner each month receives a prize.    Tournament summaries are posted after each tournament and pro tips are updated often.