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Budget Struggles Aside, Thunderbirds Soar At Joint Base MDL This Weekend

Cleve-Bryan-web-headshot Cleve Bryan
New Jersey Reporter Cleve Bryan joined CBS 3/CW Philly’s Eyewit...
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By Cleve Bryan

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. (CBS) – Rolling and zooming at more 700 mph the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are soaring back after being grounded last year due to sequestration.

“Following sequestration and the new fiscal year we were given our budget back and are able to go back on the road and start demonstrating again,” says Maj. Tyler Ellison the Thunderbirds operations officer and a pilot.

As the ‘Birds gear up for this weekend’s the air show at Joint Base Mcguire-Dix-Lakehurst, I got to suit up for the thrill of a life-time, a flight with the top pilots in the world.

First thing was learning about the effects of high G-force on the body from flight surgeon Maj. Michael Carletti.

“If you feel the plane yank and bank, get ready for g’s,” says Carletti. “It’s uncomfortable and it’s unnatural but it’s what our guys do on a daily basis.”

Among the numerous pieces of safety gear the Thunderbirds outfitted me with a g-suit is designed to inflate around your legs and waist to keep blood in your chest and head.

Blacking out is very common between 4 to 9 G-force when the gravitational force can make you feel like each of your arms weighs over a hundred pounds.

Meeting the Thunderbirds’ crew, their spirit of patriotism was infectious and with all systems go, it was time to ride.

Once in the clouds we ascended from 8,000 to 18,000 feet in less than 10 seconds.

The first move, a full loop, made me feel four times earth’s gravity.

Next, the 8-point roll showed the F-16′s precise turning capabilities.

The highlight for me was the double roll which made the world spin in ways that are probably more fun to say you felt than to be in the act of felling.

The experience was like a roller coaster on steroids, and there were a lot of well-deserved thank you’s to Maj. Ellison for being my pilot and all of the crew.

Military funding is far from certain, but for 60 years the Thunderbirds have proven they can to handle a little turbulence.

“Everything comes with their time so we’re looking forward to getting back on step and do an incredible show season and do it safely,” says Maj. Ellison.

The Air Show is free to the public on May 10th and 11th.

You can view the full schedule at http://www.jbmdlspecialevents.com/general-event-info-airshow