NEW YORK — The U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels will take flight at the annual Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach this weekend.
It will be their first performance there in four years, so the pilots are ready. So was CBS2’s John Dias, who took to the skies with the famed Flight Demonstration Squadron to give viewers a closer look at what it looks like from above.
At a briefing, Dias was told there were about 332 million people in the United States, but that day only two civilians would be allowed into what was, literally, air rarefied.
And somehow Dias was chosen, along with, more deservingly, Dr. Kishore Kuncham, who is the superintendent of the Freeport School District, to fly high with the Blue Angels. Yeah, those guys who showcase Navy and Marine Corps teamwork and professionalism through flight demonstrations.
“We’re going to be flying pretty close to airliner speeds, but what we’re doing a little differently is we’re flying low and in formation,” Lt. Griffin Stangel said.
He was the pilot for Dias, who’s been flying with the Navy for a decade.
Behind him was the plane.
“An F-18F Super Hornet, two-seat variant,” Stangel said.
But even before Dias and Kuncham were allowed inside the plane, they had to undergo safety training, such as learning how to position their bodies for G-forces and performing proper breathing techniques.
They also learned what they can hit while flying, which is practically nothing.
Then it was time to get dressed.
Kuncham left first, on a 45-minute ride that he said was, “Oh my God, totally thrilling, exciting and something I’ll remember forever.”
Kuncham was nominated and won the Key Influencer Award for his hard work in the community and was grateful that this ride was the trophy.
“A unique opportunity to reach greater heights,” he said.
Shortly after, Dias was up. He strapped in, went through more safety rules, and finally was ready to rock ‘n roll.
Dias did some Tom Cruise moves, as seen in “Top Gun” and the just-released sequel “Top Gun: Maverick,” and nearly got it right, but Lt. Stangel knew what he was doing.
Within seconds, Dias and his pilot were already in the clouds. Soon after, they cleaned them up, and that’s when the real fun began. They did a lot of rolls and some exciting loops.
“There’s pure vertical, at 10,000 feet. Oh my God, now we’re coming down, nice and easy,” Stangel said.
And during some parts, he said it was even difficult to move.
“It’s hard to put your hands up,” Dias said.
Other times they flew upside down and hit zero G, like an astronaut.
“Now we’re just floating around,” Stangel said.
But he said the most electrifying part was hitting a wildly high G-force.
“Ready, hit it. There’s 7. Let’s go,” Stangel said.
It was the most terrifying experience of Dias’ life, but he added that stepping back onto the pitch had never felt better, especially since he now had bragging rights.
Kuncham said now that he has experienced the Blue Angles, he wants to go to SpaceX.