FORT WORTH -- "Alright, engines coming up. Off brakes. Here comes full after burner."
I hear the pilot’s rapid fire narration in my headset as we wait to take off. He speaks fast, like a typewriter.
Maybe you've seen a Blue Angels performance, where they skim the runway, then rocket straight up. This is that moment.
"Alright Jim, you ready?"
“Here we go. Ready... Hit it.”
The force presses me into the back seat of the F/A-18. We’re vertical. Climbing to the clouds.
Navy Lieutenant Ryan Chamberlain pilots Blue Angel No. 7. The veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan is a natural ambassador for Naval aviation.
"Alright, that was 5.7 Gs," he said, checking on me in his rearview mirror.
"OK," I respond. Feeling good. Time to rock.
"Here we go. Little pull. Ready. Hit it."
We snap roll 360 degrees in one-and-a-half seconds. I hear myself laughing.
And now that we've rocked, time to roll.
"Ready. Rolling it.”
I’m hanging upside down in my harness. Lt. Chamberlain narrates like a TV chef mixing salad.
"There's minus-one G. We're at 13,000 feet. About two miles above the ground."
Effortless. Or so it seems.
They fly less than two feet apart in formation. I'm glad we're not.
“Here we go. We're going to roll out. Rolling out.”
The Navy saved about $20 million by scrubbing last year's Blue Angels shows in response to the budget sequester.
Lt. Chamberlain wonders how you put a price on this.
"A lot of people think of us as the recruiting tool for the Navy and Marine Corps. Not necessarily true,” he said. “It's about encouraging a culture of excellence in service."
One hundred thousand people or more are expected to see them at a free air show this weekend at the Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth.
As I write this, four Blue Angels roar past my office window on West 7th Street in Fort Worth, then break hard left. The “carrier break.”
I know what that feels like now. Squeezing my legs and stomach muscles as hard as I can to force blood upward. Fighting to keep from passing out in the turn.
Blue fades to gray. Then back to blue.