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Heloise and her father along with some of the U. S. Navy Blue Angels crew on a preflight walk around the plane.

With the Blue Angels in California

Yours truly went for an exhilarating, high-flying ride of a lifetime in a Navy F/A-18 Hornet dual-role fighter/attack aircraft with a member of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels' Flight Demonstration Squadron.

My father, Mike Cruse, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot, my husband David, a hot-air balloonist, and my brother, Louis, an aeronautical engineer, were all envious -- but happy for me. Many friends said, "You're going to do what?

With my father and my husband listening, I went through a 45-minute pre-briefing by AOT2 Terrance Williams, who hails from Atlanta. He taught me the "hook" maneuver, an action of tightening your stomach and leg muscles to prevent blacking out. I didn't wear a pressure-adjusting G-suit, but I did wear a stunning, non-high-fashion royal blue flight suit they loaned me. After practicing the "hook" to avoid blacking out during the high-performance routines, I was strapped into the nine-point harness of the Hornet's ejection seat. The experience was much more intense than fastening your lap belt and listening to the safety instructions on a typical commercial airline flight.

Heloise still in flight suit and her father (Lt. Col. Mike Cruse, USAF, Ret.) after her thrilling 45-minute ride! (March 1997)

Lt. Doug Verissimo, from Falmouth, Mass., piloted my unbelievably thrilling flight. We did wingovers, a 360-degree loop, a split S, overheads, and more. Your friend here pulled 7.8 g's (or nearly eight times the force of gravity) without losing her lunch or blacking out. Imagine the highest and fastest roller coaster ride -- multiplied several times over. At one point in my ride, we flew at .98 Mach, or nearly the speed of sound (which is over 700 miles per hour.

The entire Blue Angel Squadron deserves a big Heloise hug for such a fantastic day!

From the time we arrived at the El Centro, California Naval Air Facility, through the briefing, a tour of the flight line, a walk around the plane, and the spectacular, heart-pounding flight, everyone was wonderful! Getting to watch the Blue Angels go through their preflight routine and take off in formation was awe-inspiring!

The Blue Angels are performing demonstration flights all across the country through November. Check out their website, www.navy.mil to see if they are coming to your area. If you miss them this tour, plan to see them next year; you won't be disappointed.

Heloise with help from AOT2 Terrance Williams just before takeoff in a Navy F/A-18 Hornet, El Centro, California. (March 1997)

Heloise and pilot Lt. Doug Verissimo after a high-flying 7.8-g flight in Blue Angel 7. (March 1997)



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