You wanna take the stick?

I’m getting what they call an orientation flight. With the Blue Angels. Public relations.

Who cares? I would cut off my arm to get in this thing.

Friend of mine drives me out to the airport, a smallish place south of town where they can do stunts and not be in anybody’s way. She’s gonna watch. From the ground.

Safety lecture first… parachutes, etc.

I sit in the back. We’re getting ready to hammer it and he says… “What I like to do to start is called a performance climb. I’m gonna lift the wheels off the runway, put the jet on its tail and hit the burners. We’ll go straight up, very fast. Are you cool with that?”

Are you kidding?

We do the climb, we run around up there, sitting atop a jet engine that can knock down a house, destroying the clouds. He catapults, stunts. And I dunno if the jet jockeys do this for everybody to make em feel special, but at one point he says, “I’m gonna put it into a high-G turn. We’ll see how you tolerate it. If it’s too much, call out on your mic.”

I watch the meter roll up to about 6 and half Gs. I’m flexing my stomach hard, to keep it where it’s supposed to be. You do not see this flying Delta, but in turbulence, these wings rock like whitecaps in the wind.

“How was that?” he says.

Do not stop on my account, I say.

At which point, he says… “It seems like you’re real good with it. I was supposed to practice today and ran out of time. If you don’t mind and you got no place to go, we could run through the show. Take about a half hour.”

I was figuring my flight would be 10 minutes, at best. I tell him it sounds something along the lines of spectacular.

We are booming a pirouette into the sky when he says… “You wanna take the stick?”

Three guesses, pal.

So I get to climb and dive and spin and bash my frickin head against the sides of the cockpit from pushing the thing too hard. We go into a steep climb and he tells me to level it off, at which point we go weightless.

“You need to be a little more sensitive with the stick,” he says.

“I am available for more practice,” I say.

I am flying with a guy who spots a smokestack miles in the distance, says we’re gonna stick our nose in it (after a few intermediate steps). Proceeds to hammer inside loops, outside loops… a whole lot of stuff where I cannot see the ground and, in fact, have no idea where it might be at that particular moment.

We are screaming out of a high speed turn when I see our nose is now pointed straight down, dead center on that smokestack.

Finally, we gotta quit.

I am trying to find some way to thank the guy.

Can I buy you a house?

We float lightly onto the runway, climb out. My friend and chauffeur runs outside, wants to know if I threw up.

Hell no. Are you kidding? That was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Wish I could say the same, she says.

But that thing you did, going straight up off the runway. That was bad.




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