IRL: McGehee to fly with Blue Angels

EL CENTRO, Calif., Feb. 21 - Although Robby McGehee would like nothing better than to join his fellow Indy Racing League drivers at the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla., on March 1-2, he certainly has an exciting ...

EL CENTRO, Calif., Feb. 21 - Although Robby McGehee would like nothing better than to join his fellow Indy Racing League drivers at the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla., on March 1-2, he certainly has an exciting alternate plan lined up for that weekend.

McGehee, who is working hard to close business deals which will get him back behind the wheel of an Indy car, will be in a different type of cockpit on Saturday, March 1 when he is scheduled to take a flight in an F/A-18 Hornet with the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels at that group's winter training base in El Centro, Calif., just north of the Mexican border.

The approximately 45-minute flight will be a single-aircraft sortie including a majority of the maneuvers flown by the Blue Angels, according to U.S. Navy Lieutenant Michael Blankenship, the public affairs officer of the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron.

McGehee, who lives in St. Louis, was invited to go along as a way to publicly demonstrate the skills and abilities of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aviators and to help attract young people to pursue a career in the armed forces.

"It's always been my dream to fly with the Blue Angels some day," said McGehee, who was the BankOne Rookie of the Year at the 1999 Indy 500. He has 37 career IRL starts.

"I visited both the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs when I was considering which college to attend because I wanted to fly military jets, but unfortunately I couldn't pursue their flight programs because my eyesight wasn't perfect without correction at the time," he said.

"Racing Indy cars is a similar sort of adrenaline rush, and luckily I was able to achieve that goal."

McGehee is a licensed private pilot with about 500 hours of flight time. "I usually fly a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza, which is a six-passenger, single-engine plane," he said. "I've also spent a lot of right-seat time in bigger and more higher-performance jets, but nothing like an F-18."

After the ride, McGehee will have first-hand knowledge of the G-forces involved in both military jets and Indy cars.

"In an Indy car in turn one at Phoenix International Raceway you pull over four Gs, but these F-18s are capable of pulling more than double that. I don't know if we'll really do that during my flight, but it's certainly going to be a thrill," McGehee said.

-rm/lm-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby McGehee