Into the ‘Wild Blue Yonder’ with the Thunderbirds

Gallery: Robyn’s Thunderbird Flight

One of the highlights of this weekend’s SkyFest is the performance by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, and KXLY’s Robyn Nance got the ride of a lifetime Friday morning with Thunderbird #8, Washington native – and WSU grad – Major Michael Fisher.

That ride of a lifetime got its start early Monday morning, hours before the actual flight, with the flight suit and G-suit fitting. I learned what all the pieces are and how they work and there are a lot of them. Following that there was a chat with the doc about how to handle g-forces and nausea and then it was time to meet my pilot, Maj. Fisher.

“We’re gonna talk about what could happen and how we’d handle it, and we’ll talk about all the awesome stuff we’re gonna go do as well,” he said.

Fisher was born and raised in Vancouver and attended Washington State University. Now, instead of going to classes in Pullman his day job is representing the most powerful Air Force in the world. He does that from the cockpit of an F-16 Fighting Falcon. Prior to flying with the Thunderbirds he was a combat pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As we headed out to the tarmac I felt a sense of honor to see my name ceremonially on the canopy near Maj. Fisher’s. Once that canopy came down, all the checks by 8’s crew were complete and we took off with smoothness and power I find hard to explain, and see views of the Inland Northwest I hadn’t even imagined, some of them upside down.

Major Fisher flew some of the maneuvers you’ll see this weekend at SkyFest such as the clover and the barrel roll. We fly low over farm fields and forests, over Sandpoint and out to the Idaho / Montana border and back home to Fairchild all in a matter of minutes.

Back down on the tarmac we were welcomed back by the stellar crew that keeps these jets sharp and safe. Be sure you keep your eyes on them, some of the 110 enlisted folks supporting the mission of the Thunderbirds.

And I personally thank each one of them for my flight of a lifetime, especially Maj. Fisher, who feels right at home this weekend in Eastern Washington.

“Go Cougs!” Fisher said.