Flying along with the Blue Angels at Jones Beach
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There's nothing quite like staring out the open backdoor of an airborne C-130T.
Getting to that feeling, however - the euphoria of "I did this" - takes patience, blind bravery and some of the best pilots in the world.
Unfortunately, I lack the first two qualities. But luckily, I flew in Fat Albert, the Navy Blue Angels' Hercules support aircraft, whose crew convinced me that the latter ingredient is the most important.
So when the plane took off yesterday for the Bethpage Federal Credit Union Air Show at Jones Beach and its nose went up in a 45-degree angle, making me feel twice as heavy as I am, I just looked to the faces of the Marines who make up the plane's crew. Their emotionless stares seemed to tell me things were going as planned.
Before taking off, an assistant public relations officer greeted several reporters and me with a warm smile and waivers.
Then, Glenn Kildare of Wantagh, a maintenance chief who has been in the Navy for 17 years, said bananas are the best preflight snack: "They taste the same going down as they do going up."
I smiled, having skipped breakfast and lunch.
After a safety briefing and a quick meet-and-greet with the crew, I was ready.
Within seconds of takeoff, we hit zero gravity. The first time caught me off guard. The next three times, I kicked my weightless feet in the air in excitement.
The flight, which lasted about 20 minutes, was filled with twists and turns. Strapped to a corner seat, I watched the skyline drift up and down as Capt. Edward Jorge tilted the plane back and forth.
At one point, the plane seemed to be crashing. I could see the earth rapidly approaching through small windows that lined the back of the plane.
Then we were going 375 mph just 60 feet above the ground. We rose again for more weightlessness and tilting.
After a quick, jolting descent, I looked out the window to see we were again on land.
Later, Jorge explained that he had wanted to be a Blue Angel since he was 8. He said he flew C-130s in Iraq, delivering food and poll workers around the country, before joining the Blue Angels.
"I'm living a childhood dream," he said. "I've fallen in love with the mission of this aircraft."