I really did fly in an F-16 Fighting Falcon, an actual United States Air Force Thunderbird! And, according to published reports, LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri gets to go up with them Friday morning right in Lake Charles. How cool!!!

The Chennault International Airshow is this weekend in Lake Charles, and the Thunderbirds are the star of the show. They allow a member of the media or a person "of note" to fly-along with them prior to the show to help promote it.

In October of 2011, the Sertoma Club of Lafayette hosted an air show at Lafayette Regional Airport. I was lucky enough to be asked, but it's not as simple as granting permission.

I had to get a thorough physical from my doctor AND a cardiologist, had to meet height and weight requirements, and pass all the background and security checks. The day of the fly-along, I had to be there two hours in advance to be fitted with special flight gear and go through special training. They taught me how to breathe. Yes, breathe.

Fighter pilots are fitted with these suits, special balloon-like clothing called "air bladders," and taught breathing techniques to keep the blood from pooling in their legs and feet when they hit two or more Gs. Basically, that's the amount of force being pressed against your body by gravity "mechanically" that can cause a person to lose consciousness.

Or cause your brain and stomach to divide, and make you toss your cookies. Ask me.

me sick

Lost lunch and all, I must tell you, we made it from Lafayette to somewhere over Texas in about 10 minutes. The initial, vertical climb from take-off into the blue, cloud-streaked sky was MAGNIFICENT. The barrel rolls had me giggling like a 5-year-old.

And it was one of the most spectacular, unbelievable, to-be-etched-in-my-memory-forever moments of my life. And I'd do it again tomorrow if I were able.




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