Up until Wednesday, my name was simply Gregg.
With the double consonant at the end, I would sometimes jokingly refer to myself as Gregg “2 Gs” Pachkowski (in my best native-New Jersey, wise-guy accent). Well, that may have all changed.
On Wednesday, I got to fly with the Blue Angels!
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Although I never became a pilot, I guess you could say that flying runs through my veins. My uncle Peter Himey was in the Army Air Corps during WWII and my father Harry Pachkowski was a B-52 pilot during the height of the Cold War.
At a recent B-52 Association reunion, my father told me his story about flight training and the few bumps along the way.
Harry explained that during Air Force flight training “… we proceeded to do spins. We take the aircraft up to 20,000 feet and initiate a stall and put the aircraft in a spin. And all of a sudden, now I don’t feel so well. And of course, here comes lunch.”
Then there was the time that he was pulling some Gs during a maneuver. Not fully prepared, he started getting tunnel vision before pulling out and recovering.
“After that, I sort of resolved that I don’t think I’m cut out for being a fighter pilot, so I flew B-52 Bombers.”
OK, so flying may be in my blood, but I’m not sure if fighter pilot maneuvering is in my stomach.
In any case, I got my pre-flight briefing — where I learned the Anti G Straining Maneuver to fight off the tunnel vision (or worse, passing out) while pulling high Gs — suited up, and made my way to the flight line.
It was time to find out if I had … The Flight Stuff!
I have to admit that I was nervous. Of course, I knew that I was in good hands. After all, I was flying with one the world’s best pilots.
But could I handle the G-forces? Would I get sick? Would I pass out?
Only time would tell.
Lt. Cmdr. Andre Webb and I climbed into the #7 Blue Angel F/A-18 Hornet. I took a few quick selfies and away we went.
Within seconds, after a maximum performance climb with full afterburner, we were 5,000 feet above the ground. Talk about a rush!
From there, Webb gave me a little taste of what the Blue Angels do on a daily basis. We did rolls, a loop, and flew upside down. During the Zero G Pushover we became weightless for a few seconds.
We also took the plane to both extremes of speed, flying as fast as the speed of sound at Mach 1.0 and the F/A-18’s slowest speed of 130 knots while still maintaining flight.
That is the really cool maneuver called the High Alpha Pass that the Solos do during their airshows. You know the one. It’s the crowd pleaser where they pass by really slowly and look like they are standing on their tails.
So, did I throw up? Surprisingly, no!
I did get a little queasy at times. However, I am proud to say that I never tossed my cookies. In fact, I kept the unused relief bag as a souvenir.
Did I pass out? Came close, but no!
Right before landing we did a Carrier Break maneuver and pulled just shy of 7 Gs. Despite squeezing the muscles in my lower extremities as instructed to keep blood in my head, I did get tunnel vision and now know what my father had experienced.
My vision was completely gone for a second, but I happily did not pass out.
And then we landed.
What can I say? This was the most incredible experience in my life!
As for becoming a fighter pilot … I think NOT. I will leave that to the talented Naval/Marine aviators (and, yes, Dad, the Air Force too).
I will keep my feet on the ground and stick to what I do best — photographing.
So be sure to check out the photographs that I — along with my talented colleagues Tony Giberson and John Blackie — capture during this weekend’s Blue Angels Homecoming Show.
That said, now that I have safely completed my mission (albeit a 40-minute flight) and withstood over 6 Gs while flying with the Blue Angels, I am thinking about changing my name to Gregggggg.
And you can call me, Gregg “6 Gs” Pachkowski.