By Jackie Hays
(LOUISVILLE) -- When it comes to performing breathtaking maneuvers at incredible speeds, the world-famous Blue Angels have what it takes. Representing the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps., the elite group of pilots performed in front of 17 million fans last year, and they'll be demonstrating their skills this year at Thunder Over Louisville. Our own Jackie Hays was daring enough to take a ride with one of the world's best pilots.
As the bright blue F/A-18 Hornet cooled its jets on the tarmac, we got instructions from No. 7 Crew Chief Patrick Palma.
"You'll be pulling 7.5 Gs today, depending on how aggressive you want to be." That meant my body would be subjected to seven times the normal force of gravity, so being aggressive wasn't exactly what I had in mind.
Crew Chief Palma's next words were no comfort either. "About 66 percent pass out on this flight because we don't wear G suits."
We were then given a brief demonstration on how to breathe properly to handle the Gs, and a primer on what to do if we had to eject in an emergency situation, I was off for the ride of a lifetime.
Lt. Kevin Davis has flown navy jets for 10 years, and he was a pro from the get-go, as we took off at 500 feet a second -- 8.000 feet in the blink of an eye.
Within minutes at speeds up to 600 knots, we were pulling all kinds of stunts over southern Indiana.
I heard Lt. Davis's reassuring voice in my ear. "Keep breathing, keep flexing your legs," he said, as I did my best to comply.
We were flying straight up, upside down, and spinning wildly through the bright blue yonder, and before I even knew it was happening, those Gs got the better of me -- I briefly blacked out not once, but twice.
The blackouts lasted only seconds, and were certainly worth it. Because all too soon, the hour-long flight was over and we were screaming back to Louisville and reality.
Back on terra firma, I have nothing but admiration for the people who pilot the aircraft that can fly faster than the speed of sound -- they are truly modern day heros.