The Blue Angels treated local key influencers John Beasley and Jeff White to a thrilling jet ride Oct. 24, prior to the Naval Air Station Jacksonville Air Show Oct. 27.
Each year, the Blue Angels select approximately 90 of these figures for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to soar above the clouds. Key influencers are typically defined as community leaders, and may be counselors, teachers, coaches, school administrators, or prominent public figures.
These individuals serve the community and help to shape the attitudes, opinions, experiences, hearts and minds of local youth.
“It was unbelievable,” said Jeff White, a police lieutenant for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, following his flight.
“The view was good, we got down under the clouds and flew along the beach.”
John Beasley, an aeronautics technology instructor at Edward H. White High School, expressed mild nervousness prior to his flight. Beasley also said he was very excited to share this experience with his students, some of whom were in attendance.
“It’s like a rollercoaster you have complete control of,” said YN2 Kyle Wood, a Blue Angels crew chief, during a brief given before the flight.
The pre-flight brief addresses issues of concern during flight, such as the internal structure of the aircraft, emergency ejection procedures, and both positive and negative G forces and the proper ways to handle them.
“I didn’t expect the type of g-forces that your body takes when you are doing something like that,” said White.
“We did negative g’s, flew upside down, did a couple loops, hit the sound barrier, and a maneuver where we hit 6 g.”
While some key influencers have little-to-no experience with flight outside a routine commercial flight, this year both riders are different.
Beasley has more than 40 years of aviation experience, including work at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, and volunteer work with NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Prior to serving the citizens of Jacksonville with the sheriff’s office for the past 23 years, White was a Sailor stationed at Naval Station Mayport as a naval aircrewman with Helicopter Light Anti-Submarine 44 (HSL-44).
The intention of these special flights is to allow the rider to take their experience with naval aviation back into the community.
“I just hope today’s experience will spill over to the kids,” said Beasley, “If I can reach one or two, that’s fine. I’d love to reach all 189.”
“I’m going to tell my friends how awesome the experience was,” said White. “My different respect for the fighter pilots and what they go through day in and day out.”
While these men may not be flying inside the jet with the Blue Angels again, both intend to return for the Air Show this weekend for more exciting aerial action.