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Blue Angels flight fulfills reporter’s longtime bucket list

Blue Angels help reporter fulfill bucket list

POINT MUGU, Calif.-The first time I had the opportunity to fly with the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron Blue Angels more than two decades ago I had to cancel after finding out I was pregnant with my first daughter.

So at the last minute I asked if my cameraman, Henry Galvan, of Santa Paula could take my place and the Navy said "yes."

That baby girl is now a Berkeley grad and this year I was chosen to fly again after passing a physical.

When I arrived at the base I was delighted to learn the Blue Angels knew that story.

Following a day of consistent rain I arrived with my cameraman Alex Zauner, who wished her could fly, too. My husband was also invited to watch.

Before take-off the Blue Angels Crew Chief Sean Donogue, of Santa Clarita, went over some important flight instructions that make gravity known as G's a lot easier to handle.

I was not alone. Mia Rogers, a former Ventura County Teacher of the Year, was also chosen to fly.

Thanks to Lt. Ross Gamelgaard, two second grade classes from Glen City Elementary in Santa Paula and more than a dozen students from Renaissance High School were invited to the base to see her fly in the back seat of the Blue Angels' F/A-18 Super Hornet.

Rogers flew first and the students including 18-year-old Damien Valasquez cheered.

"I never heard a fighter jet that close, it was very loud, you can asked anyone right here, we could feel it in our chest. It was a once in a lifetime experience for me, " said Valasquez" I never thought I'd get to be on a base like this. It was a cool experience, loved it."

Some of the students said they hope to join the Navy.

When I get older I am going to work very hard, as hard as I can, so I can become a great Blue Angel," said Alexa Barrios.

When Rogers landed she said, "I didn't know what to expect, it was amazing, even though I threw up."

When it was my turn clouds gave way to California sunshine.

Blue Angels Pilot #7 LTCR Thomas Zimmerman, a father of two young sons, from Maryland, seemed happy to fly into bright blue skies.

He talked me through every maneuver with reminders to tense my abdomen and leg muscles to keep the blood pumping into my brain.

Even so I passed out for a moment and felt nauseous a coupe times, but I relished every minute, especially the weightlessness, upside down.

Seeing the blue sky and the navy ocean below full of white caps made me think of being in outerspace.

We actually had time to talk as the Blue Angels crew had just arrived on their C130 known as Fat Albert.

I told him our main anchor CJ Ward had flown with the Blue Angels years ago on an FA18 Hornet and that our other main anchor Beth Farnsworth is the daughter of a Lt.Commander in the Vietnam War who flew F4Phantom.

I told him my dad, Jay Lehr, who passed away in January, was in the Navy, too and that I was carrying a photo of him in his skydiving gear.

We also talked about Top Gun.

Zimmerman grew up with the first one and sad fans may enjoy an upcoming IMAX documentary about the Blue Angels that used the same cameras used to get the flight scenes in the latest Top Gun.

He said a former Blue Angel they call Walleye flew in the award-winning film.

Then let me take some cell phone photos of the view and the Channel Islands off the coast of Oxnard before taking another G-force turn and landing.

Zimmerman said he was excited for the weekend and airshow.

Once on the ground I asked him to remind me of all the things we practiced up there, he relayed a long list that included rolling.

"We did a couple of rolling maneuvers, some of the ones you will see in the air show, that is the one I was talking you through, saying imagine these other airplanes, flying off you as we are doing that," said Zimmerman.

It will the first Pt. Mugu Airshow since 2015 and the first Pt. Mugu Airshow with the Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds as co-headliners.

Thunderbird Pilot Jeff Downie said they have been training together and have even flown in each other's aircraft.

Downie said they reviewed, "Best practices, techniques and procedures from our different air shows and learning from each other."

They will be demonstrating that for the crowds on Saturday and Sunday.

The show is free, and so is the parking.

And the pilots will be in downtown Ventura for a meet in greet on Friday night around 6:30.

Then they will be up early for the show.

Point Mugu's gates open at 8 a.m. and show organizers hope to entertain 100,000 fans over the weekend.

The headliners fly around 3 p.m. and there are all kinds of flyovers to see.

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Article Topic Follows: Ventura County

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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here


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