MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience: The chance to fly with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

They are the men and women who maintain and fly the fiercest fighter jets, and they are here now for this weekend’s Minnesota Air Spectacular in Mankato.

Ahead of the show, they took our own Natalie Nyhus up in the sky to defy gravity and see the world from a whole new angle.

(credit: Thunderbirds)

(credit: Thunderbirds)

The Thunderbirds are elite members of the U.S. Air Force, America’s Ambassadors in Blue. They flawlessly maneuver fighter jets, sometimes flying as close to 18 inches from each other in the Diamond Delta formation and as low as 200 feet from the ground.

They offered to train and take Natalie up in an F-16 Fighting Falcon to understand how incredible it is to function with so much agility through the sky.

Pilot Major Tyler Ellison explained each maneuver thoroughly before the flight. And the flight surgeon’s medical coaching taught Natalie how to breathe through 7 g.

The “g” stands for gravity, meaning the body’s pull to the earth increases 100 percent with each g. At 4 g, lifting your arms is nearly impossible.

There are eight pilots, but nearly 140 men and women who make the Thunderbirds possible. They are about pride, precision and professionalism in the U.S. Air Force.

And how did Natalie fare?

“I have to admit I suffered a bit of motion sickness, but I felt a little better as we walked away, feet on solid ground,” she said.

The Minnesota Air Spectacular is Saturday and Sunday in Mankato.

This will be the only Minnesota appearance for the Thunderbirds in 2015.


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