News 4 flies high with the Blue Angels

Special Reports
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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Blue Angels are headlining the Tinker Air Force Base Star Spangled Salute Air and Space Show this weekend, and News 4’s own Emily Sutton had the honor of taking a special practice flight with the Navy’s most famous flyers.

These Blue and Gold airmen haven’t been here in more than 10 years.

Emily Sutton had a behind-the-scenes look Friday morning at what it’s like to fly with the superstars of the aviation world: the Blue Angels.

The world’s most famous flying precision team represents the Navy and U.S. Marine Corps’ finest. From the maintenance crew on the ground to the aviators in the air, it takes a crew of over 100 people to put on an air demo.

Lieutenant Cary Rickoff says physics plays a crucial role in flying in many ways, “They’re so close that the air flow off of one of the wings can actually push up on Boss’ wings so that can push the whole formation around. So they are very focused and very locked in to maintain their absolute position.”

This season, the Blues will do 61 shows in 32 different cities, each with different climate zones.

Lieutenant Rickoff says the F/A-18C Hornet aircraft works better in certain environments – “Especially for these jet engines, hot, humid air is kind of its nemesis so the jet prefers cold, dry air to operate and give it a little more power so as the heat and humidity rise, the jet will perform a little bit worse. All that they will take into account for formation flying and make sure that they are ready to go.”

The aviators are their own meteorologists and have to adjust to changing weather conditions.

Lieutenant Rickoff says, “Wind speeds, that’s something they’ll brief. They’ll brief where it will come from as far as behind the crowd, in front of the crowd, left, right because that will affect not only timing for the solo maneuvering but it will push the Diamond and the Delta left and right.”

Two soloists start ten miles apart and fly to within just a few hundred feet- requiring intense training and extreme focus.

Flight Surgeon Lieutenant Aaron Hicks says it’s a workout, “After a 45-minute demo, guys definitely come out of the aircraft sweating, fatigue. It takes a lot of work and definitely a lot of persistence.”

Lieutenant Hicks explains the physical demands of a demo:

“So when you pull back on the stick, do one of those maneuvers where we’re changing the direction of the aircraft, there’s a lot of gravitation force, G-Force, that pushes down from the brain, down into the body and into the lower extremities.”

When the G-force is high enough, your brain can’t get oxygen and you pass out.

The Blues use a series of muscle contractions and breathing techniques to fly without a G-suit.

News 4’s Meteorologist Emily Sutton had the honor of being nominated to fly with Lieutenant Rickoff in Number Seven.

Unlike him, Emily’s body is not used to flying straight up in the air to just under the speed of sound! She passed out a couple times during their 50-minute flight.

Lieutenant Hicks says, “So any average person could withstand 2 to 3, an athletic person maybe 3 to 4 G-forces. We’re pulling up to 7-and-a-half Gs at a time in these aircraft.”

At seven-and-a-half Gs, Emily’s weight jumped to over 1,000 pounds! (That’s due to increased gravity, and not the snacks from storm chasing last week.)

From barrel rolls to inverted flying, this is a sky-high adventure Emily Sutton will never forget.

Tinker Air Force Base’s Star Spangled Salute Air and Space Show is this weekend and is free to the public. Gates open at 8 a.m. and flying acts begin at 11. The Blue Angels will perform at 3 p.m.

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