As published by Fox6 Milwaukee
FOX6’s Jason Calvi got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fly with the Navy’s Blue Angels on Wednesday, July 20 – ahead of the Milwaukee Air & Water Show coming up this weekend.
Calvi flew with Lt. Griffin Stangel – call sign Pushpop – who grew up in Madison.
“It’s absolutely incredible being back in this state,” Lt. Stangel said. “I’m really excited to see everybody. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been able to get together.”
The pilot showed different Blue Angels’ maneuvers bringing them into what many would see as the danger zone: going vertical straight up into the air like a rocket ship, as well as rolls, loops, and flying upside down. Straps on the ankles, thighs, waist and shoulders keep the crew in their place during these moves.
Calvi also experienced pulling 7.4 Gs. Acceleration and gravity put pressure on the body, and it feels like nearly 1,300 pounds. It can also cause people to black out. Calvi did not, but he admits for a second he started to lose his vision.
In a pre-flight briefing, Navy Blue Angels Crew Chief Jordan Walls taught Calvi how to do the Anti-G Straining Maneuver. It involves tightening the entire body from the feet, calves, thighs, gluteus, abdomen, neck to head while breathing in, holding the breath, and then pushing the air out.
You may have seen this maneuver in “Top Gun: Maverick.” It’s a technique taught to fighter pilots when faced with G-forces. It keeps blood flowing to the brain.
Walls also taught how to eject from the F/A-18 and land with a parachute, just to be safe, although he was confident that wouldn’t be needed.
The Blue Angels gave another ride to a Milwaukee educator, honoring her as a “Key Influencer.” It’s an honor the Blues give to a person who helps “shape attitudes and opinions of youth in their communities. People turn to Key Influencers for advice and information because they have credibility.”
“Flying these deserving candidates, in cooperation with media presence, will promote the Navy and Marine Corps as professional and exciting organizations with which to serve.”
For this visit to Wisconsin, the Blue Angels gave that honor to Kristin Adler of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School Milwaukee.
“It was a little intense, but our training was good,” she said after her flight.
She helps the students with their work-study program and the companies that bring the students in. Each student works five school days a month for a company in the Milwaukee area.
“If you work really hard, and you give back and want to make a difference, that you can do cool stuff like this,” Adler said referencing the Blue Angels.
Things that Stangel’s family will soon see during his Wisconsin homecoming.
He’s served in the Navy for ten years and is now based in Florida. He’s on the road about 300 days a year as a member of the prestigious Blue Angels, where he looks to inspire others to consider the military—and remember those serving.
“We’re just out here to showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps,” Stangel said. “What you see in the show is what the pilots are doing out there on the other side of the world, just a little different capacity. There’s carriers on the other side of the world right now, and I don’t want to forget those sailors and marines.”
Now, he’s bringing that message home.
The Milwaukee Air & Water Show takes place July 23-24. Attendees will see the Blues flying within 18 inches of each other.
Also flying this weekend are some flyers from the U.S. Air Force, and Wisconsin Air National Guard. Among the highlights – the all-new Blue Angels C-130 Hercules “Fat Albert” Demo Team hits Milwaukee for the first time.
For now, look up in the sky, listen, and you may hear and see the Blue Angels practicing in Milwaukee.
If you’re wondering of all the media in Milwaukee, why the one journalist they picked to ride along with the Blue Angels during this visit is FOX6’s political reporter, Jason Calvi, that’s a good question.
His brother is an F-35 air show pilot in the U.S. Navy. He put a good word for his brother with the Milwaukee Air and Water Show coordinator.