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Flying With The Thunderbirds

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KALISPELL -
I suited up yesterday and spent nearly an hour over Glacier National Park and Browning.

It was incredible.

I was definitely nervous going into it, and now I know for sure my dream of being a pilot is dead, because I can't believe what these men and women do every day.

The flight itself was scheduled to take off around 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, but the briefings started around noon. I had a lot to learn before I could climb into the cockpit of an F-16.

The G suit might not be the most flattering silhouette, but it kept me from passing out. That and the advice from flight surgeon Major Michael Carletti.

The problem is when these aircrafts get going fast enough, it can force your blood down into your feet. The suit hugs you like a blood pressure cuff at Safeway to keep that from happening, but you also have to tense your muscles.

My pilot was Major Tyler Ellison. He and all the other pilots each have at least 10 years of experience, roughly more than 750 hours of training.

"It's always been a dream of mine to fly fighters. As a young kid I decided to pursue the Air Force as a career because that was something I thought would be pretty cool and it's turned out to be very rewarding," said Ellison.

I'm not a real nature lover, but I couldn't help but stare in awe at some of the high-up lakes and peaks as we soared over Glacier National Park.

"There's very few places in the world that has scenery like this," said Ellison.

For me, a little up there goes a long way, but demo pilots fly twice a day every day during training season.

To give you an idea of how big the F-16 is, it's 31 feet across and almost 50 feet long.

It can climb 30,000 feet per minute, which I found out soon after take off when we went straight up in the air.

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