The Blue Angels flew at Burke Lakefront Airport in Ohio for the Cleveland Air Show, an event that AVIATION WEEK President Tom Henricks took part in during activities related to the celebration of NASA's 50th anniversary and 19 astronauts—including Henricks—who hail from Ohio.
Henricks' resume includes 10 years with NASA with service as a space shuttle pilot and commander, and his tour with the U.S. Air Force, where he was an F-16 test pilot and F-4 fighter pilot.
In honor of the assembled astronauts, the Blue Angels invited one of them to take the second seat Aug. 27 in one of their F/A-18s, commanded by U.S. Navy Lt. Frank Weisser, Henricks' first flight in that aircraft type. "I was honored to represent that group" of astronauts, he tells us, which included John Glenn, the first American to orbit earth; Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon; and James Lovell, who as commander of Apollo 13 guided the safe return of the crew on that crippled mission.
I've hung around Aviation Week for years and still hope to wrangle my first flight in any fighter whatsoever, but it's just possible that former fighter pilots and retired shuttle commanders should get first dibs. Henricks' brief account: "Walleye [Lt. Weisser's call sign] let me pull 7.5 gs, do loops, and slow flight over Lake Erie. The last time that I saw all of Lake Erie in a single view was aboard Columbia in orbit in 1996. My first flight in an F-18 was awesome. It was rewarding to experience the pride and professionalism of the young officers and enlisted men and women of our military at the air show."
It's the nature of things for many of us to take all of this for granted. Climb into a fighter, take in the 10,000 square miles of Lake Erie in a single glance, swoop back down, and oh yeah, the last time he saw all that and more was from orbit. Just another day at the office.
The photos are from Henricks' flight--that's him giving the thumbs'-up, below, after landing. I've posted a gallery of these and other shots here, including a group shot of the 19 Ohio astronauts. They attended a gala to honor them on Aug. 29 in Cleveland, an event that was covered by local WKYC TV and The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Henricks and crew chief SSgt Deo Harrypersuad. NASA photos by Quentin Schwinn (Wyle Information Systems)