IRL: McGehee flies with Blue Angels

McGehee calls flight with Blue Angels 'amazing' EL CENTRO, Calif., March 3 - He didn't throw up, but he did pass out. Calling the experience "amazing," Indy Racing League driver Robby McGehee took a 45-minute flight with the U.S. Navy's Blue...

McGehee calls flight with Blue Angels 'amazing'

EL CENTRO, Calif., March 3 - He didn't throw up, but he did pass out.

Calling the experience "amazing," Indy Racing League driver Robby McGehee took a 45-minute flight with the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels on Saturday afternoon, taking off and landing at the squadron's winter training base in El Centro, Calif.

"I only passed out twice; really it was more like one and a half times, but I never had to use the safety bags," McGehee said after returning to Mother Earth. "Basically we did all the standard maneuvers.

"The first time I passed out for a few seconds was when we were doing the Immelman [maneuver]," McGehee, of St. Louis, said. "We were flying straight and level, and then we pulled up into a quick climb. We went to seven and a half Gs. I was able to stay awake for the first half.

"We started that one at 500 feet, and I woke up at 11,000 feet," he said. "I had to put the pieces together and figure out where I was there for a minute.

"The second time was also right at seven and a half Gs, when we were doing a split S," he said. "The whole flight was amazing."

McGehee, who stays in top physical shape for the rigors of being a professional race car driver and who is a pilot himself, has always been appreciative of the Blue Angels.

Now he's even more impressed.

"These pilots are big-time athletes," he said. "While I was passed out, my pilot, Lt. Craig Olson, whose call sign is Merlin, was still there flying the airplane. It's extreme fitness. It's just amazing.

"It's unlike anything your body will ever experience," McGehee continued. "My racing background helped a little bit because I'm used to being strapped in tight and having a helmet on, so that was like racing, but the G load was just unbelievable."

Although this was hardly a sightseeing flight, could McGehee see anything other than sky?

"We were flying upside down and doing all kinds of crazy stuff, but I could see the desert and it was gorgeous," he said.

Would he do it again?

"I'd give myself a couple of days, but then I'd do it again," he said. "I would rather be flying the thing though. I would like to be the one with the control stick.

"I'll tell you another thing," McGehee concluded. "After that flight, I feel sorry for our current opposition in the Middle East. We Americans should all be very proud of our armed services."

McGehee, who was the BankOne Rookie of the Year at the 1999 Indy 500, has 37 career IRL starts and he's one of the series' most popular drivers. He is currently without an IRL ride, but he's working hard to get back behind the wheel of an Indy car as soon as possible.

The series' next race is at Phoenix International Raceway on March 23.

"That's where I want to be," McGehee noted. "I'm very used to that. In an Indy car in turn one at Phoenix you pull over four Gs, not seven and a half."

-lm-

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