SAN FRANCISCO - There I was, having a ‘how did I get here’ moment sitting in the back seat of a Blue Angels F-18 jet just past 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Nearly a week prior to this moment, I found out I was selected as the Blue Angels’ yearly media rider for the San Francisco Fleet Week Air Show presented by United Airlines. I would be taking to the skies in a way I never thought I would.
In the week leading up to the ride, I watched just about every YouTube video and TikTok I could find of fellow riders, as my nerves set in. What I know now is nothing could prepare me for what I was about to experience.
WATCH: The Blue Angels ride
I attempted to prep for days, I exercised, drank water, and didn't drink alcohol. And at the request of the Blue Angels, I did not eat anything greasy or spicy leading up to my flight, in fact, I ate nothing but rice cakes in the 24 hours prior.
Wednesday morning I woke up and packed a bag filled with mouthwash, a toothbrush, an extra shirt, Dramamine and of course, more rice cakes.
I’ll admit, I have not seen Top Gun (part one or two) so everything I was about to experience was very new.
But before takeoff was a safety briefing, I learned about how to not pass out from G-force, how to breath properly in the plane and how to eject myself out in case of emergency.
But, before I knew it my helmet was buttoned on, and we were taxiing on our way to take off.
Quicker than you could read this sentence we were airborne. All I remember saying (or screaming) is "this is crazier than any rollercoaster ever!"
Let me tell you, in that plane you feel everything. No Disneyland rollercoaster could have prepared me for that moment. Tower of Terror would have felt like It’s a Small World.
Nonetheless, we were off, and I had a billion dollar view of the city by the bay– or at least the part of it that wasn't blanketed in clouds.
We hooked left and made our way toward our "uncrowded airspace." Right as we approached, we immediately curled out to the right and got going– nearing 3 G’s or three times the force of gravity.
It’s hard to describe the feeling where pure force and pressure meets the thought of ‘how is this humanly possible?’
In our daily lives the neutral force on our bodies on Earth is 1G of G-Force.
Humans have adapted to withstand G-force. But when you're twirling and looping through the skies nearing the speed of sound? The average human body isn’t well-prepared. As a result, many Blue Angels riders puke (sometimes repeatedly) or pass out.
Even still, 3G’s was ‘baby stuff’ I was planning on making my way up to 7 G’s.
But, first was an upside down roll. I was hesitant but my pilot, Lt. Griffin "Pushpop" Stangel, did it nonetheless and quicker than could say hi to my parents as we flew upside down, we were right side up again.
Then the plane started making a sound– one that in my novice opinion didn't sound ‘normal’ so I asked my pilot what it was. He assured me everything was okay that it was simply the ice warning system acting up. But, after it continued going off, my pilot decided it would be best to turn back early. So we did just that.
I didn’t get up to 7G’s, but it is better to be safe than need to use the eject button.
I asked Lt. Stangel all sorts of questions on the way back. Including what he ate prior to our flight.
"I had a roast beef sandwich, bag of chips and cookie right before we took off," he said.
As we made our way back to the airport, you could feel anytime the plane would speed up or slow down. The only way I could describe the feeling of slowing down midair is a sort of hovering feeling and having a thought of "how are we not falling out of the sky"-- which I didn’t get an answer to.
So, while it wasn't the full ride I had hoped for, it was still an experience words will never do justice.