By Ryan Lengerich
As I sat shotgun in air show pilot Greg Peterson’s Extra 300L Wednesday morning I wasn’t scared of the ride. I really wasn’t.
I was scared that I may not receive a 23rd birthday present from my mom this month when she found out what I was doing.
Maybe I should have felt more anxiety, after all, the last directions given to me from Greg before he fired up the engine were, “If we get in any trouble pull this and this, toss the radio, then push yourself up out of the seat and jump backward.” Not exactly a soothing sentence.
I got the feeling Greg would rather be shining his propellers than taking me up on a media flight. But just before takeoff he asked me where I was from, I said Cincinnati, and he said he was from South Bend, Ind. Soon enough we found out we had the same alma mater, Indiana University.
Suddenly the conversation’s tone went from, “What do you have in mind for the flight,” to “Ah, you’re a Hoosier too, let me show you some things.”
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) the skies were low that morning and certain acrobatic stunts, sure to have my McDonald’s hotcakes splattered on the steering stick, were unsafe to attempt. Greg didn’t want to make me parachute on my first flight.
We flew upside down and made a couple of rolls. It was like an afternoon at Paramount’s Kings Island back home, with an added degree of danger.
As I am an admitted aviation novice, when he asked me if I knew what “Gs” were, I said “no.” He explained and said when pulling Gs it feels like all the blood in your body is rushing to your feet. It sounded just great. We pulled five Gs, but the plane can pull as many as 10 Gs with only one pilot inside. Five was plenty.
When we landed, my stomach was angry, but the ride gave me a new respect for the show to follow.
The air show was the first time since I moved to Tucumcari in August that I saw everyone in town smiling. I have been asked so many times why I would move here. It’s a question I often ask myself and have a difficult time answering. I like to bowl, like to golf and like to watch 24-hour news. All these things I can do anywhere.
But the air show was the first event that actually had me excited. Wednesday was nearly a holiday with businesses closed and schools released. When I was in grade school, our class was released to see the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra perform downtown at Music Hall. I fell asleep using my Notre Dame winter jacket as a pillow.
My guess is no fifth-graders fell asleep when Mike DePalma flew a Navy F-18 over their head.
But for Tucumcari air show fans an F-18’s deafening roar is a symphony of its own.
Ryan Lengerich is the Quay County Sun Managing Editor. Contact him at 461-1952 or by e-mail: