The Final Best Report-
We left off where the jet wouldn’t start. Coming from perspective of high performance motorsports enthusiasts, this wasn’t a huge surprise (happens to the fastest, strongest snowmobiles ) but it was disappointing. So, unload, out of the G-Suit, back to the briefing room to see what the mechanics could do in the next hour and half. Finally Captain Fisher came and asked if Tom could be available at 9:15 Saturday. Tom hadn’t eaten much in anticipation of the flight…and then waiting the hour and half…we were grateful to go to our sister and brother-in-law’s home just a few miles away. Tom’s brother and sisters and our nieces and nephews with their kids had come out for the flight…so we all went over and had a great dinner and visit. Fast forward to 9:15 the next morning, and I walked in to Tom already suited up, reviewing the flight and safety instructions with Captain Fisher. This time our niece and nephew, Shawn and Denny, came and Tom was whisked off to the jet.
It was nerve wracking to get geared up, have to gear down, and then gear up again…but soon they were buckled in, and the checks were going on…buckled in? check. helmet on? check; and instructions not to arm the ejection seat until they are taxi-ing. Suddenly the cockpit was closed…and then the mechanics run in and do system checks. It took forever and no time at all. Then they were driving away. I did the hyperventilating for Tom, and Staff Sargent Jared Watson turned to me and said, “this is the safest adrenaline producing extreme activity he could do.” Hmmm. Taxing over…and then they were off down the runway (this is really loud)….then up….up a little farther…then veering straight up 90 degrees in an unrestricted climb to 16,000 feet, which took all of 10 seconds (this translates to about 3 miles in 10 seconds). This climb was “only” 4 1/2 to 5 g’s…but was literally breath taking. Captain Fisher advised Tom to look over his left shoulder, in order to watch the world that he had been in moments ago disappear. In order to keep from going into negative g’s they had to enter a 3-4 g turn and then leveled off to 18,000 ft. They flew up over Beale toward Chico, over Lake Oroville, Bullards, and Tom was doing really well with keeping track of landmarks, and then Captain Fisher said, “Tom, we’re going to ramp this up.” “Get ready for the gs” is the clue to take your big breath, because when doing the maneuvers (tight turns) and the g’s increase, you won’t be able to catch your breath. The did a barrel roll, 4 point roll, and the axis spins where you turn round and round while flying straight. At some point in there, they pulled 8 1/2 g’s…apparently the pressure on your body (abdomen, eyeballs, and so forth) is very intense. They might have made it up into the area of LaPorte (Tom started losing track of landmarks through the maneuvers) when Captain Fisher told him that the indicators where showing a mal-function, and so they turned back. Meanwhile, in the briefing room, I wasn’t terribly thrilled to see a sudden flurry of activity (people running and other people telling me and Tommy to wait here). I’m too tuned in to not realize that something was up; more anxiety on the ground. Happily they landed about 45 minutes after the flight started, shorter than planned, but safe and with a memory that will last a lifetime. The Thunderbird Team greeted him on the ground, and the timing was just right to see the opening of the California Capital Airshow…and see the unfurling of the flag via parachute…along with the singing of the National Anthem. Captain Fisher report to all on the flight, congratulated Tom on his selection in the Hometown Hero program, and each member of the team shook his hand. I hope Tom gets some “thrill” mileage out of this….because we can’t afford tickets to the moon.
Later in the day we enjoyed the airshow, and while waiting to see the Thunderbirds perform, naturally we loitered in their area. We were rendered speechless to realize that they quietly delivered true heros to the VIP seats before the performance; a small number of the 332nd Fighter Group who faced racism and abuse, even as they fought against the Nazi regime in World War II, otherwise known as the Teskegee Airmen.
This was such an exciting event in Tom’s life, and in our family. We hope that the community has enjoyed the ride as well. Going forward, Tom, Tommy and I all feel inspired by the professionalism and dedication of the United States Airforce Thunderbirds. They were so respectful, so informative, so committed and they work as if it makes a difference in this world…and we believe it does. It inspires us want to work hard and with enthusiasm at every task and challenge that comes our way. It also gave us hope for the future of our community, our country, and our world.
Pictorial report of first day attempt to fly:
Don’t miss this: by Miriam Dines
In June I saw the hometown hero contest on the KCRA Website, and it is true, I know so many people who are hometown heroes, quietyly serving and responding to needs in so many ways, but the person who was on my mind at that moment, and who is my personal hero is my husband Tom. When I saw what the award was, I knew that I had to write a short essay about why Tom is a hometown hero. The winner is to take a ride with the United States Airforce Thunderbirds on on F-16 Fighter jet. I knew that this was an experience Tom could savor.
About a month ago, Tom was notified that he was in the top 10 finalists (he didn’t know that he had been entered..(I had some explaining) and they needed his measurements and a medical clearance in case he was selected. Two weeks ago they notified him that he is in the top 4 finalists and 2 would be flying during a practice run before the Capital City Airshow next week. KCRA came up and interviewed him briefly on Wednesday, and his segment will air on Tuesday evening at 6 pm. We are hoping at that point that they will announce whether he flies or not…the suspense is, well, suspenseful.