Jason Line Flies with the USAF Thunderbirds LAS VEGAS, Feb. 6, 2008 - With preparation for the beginning of the new NHRA season entering its final few hours, 2006 POWERade champion Jason Line parked his Summit Racing Equipment Pro Stock Pontiac...
Jason Line Flies with the USAF Thunderbirds
LAS VEGAS, Feb. 6, 2008 - With preparation for the beginning of the new NHRA season entering its final few hours, 2006 POWERade champion Jason Line parked his Summit Racing Equipment Pro Stock Pontiac at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and crossed the Boulevard to Nellis Air Force Base to take a Tuesday afternoon ride with the USAF Thunderbirds. Line, a former senior airman in the Air Force said, "it was the opportunity of a lifetime and an exhilarating experience I'll never forget."
Early last week Line was invited to fly with the Thunderbirds, and he quickly jumped at the chance to spend a day with his pilot, Lt. Col. Rob Skelton, and Skelton's F-16 Fighting Falcon. On Tuesday at 1 p.m., Line met with Maj. Charla Quayle, Thunderbirds' flight surgeon, for a pre-flight medical exam of his heart and lungs to ensure that he was physically able to handle the stress of a combat aircraft capable of flying at Mach 2 and maneuvering turns at 9 Gs. He then was briefed during an orientation with Skelton on what to expect during their one-hour flight, and at 3 p.m., Line was airborne with the Thunderbirds.
"That was the ride of my life," Line said. "That's something I've always wanted to do, and even when I was in the Air Force, I never had the opportunity to go up in a fighter jet. That was incredible."
Founded in 1953 by the United States Air Force, the Thunderbirds have flown in over 4000 air shows and exhibitions all over the world, and in 2008, the Thunderbirds will be celebrating their 55th year of representing the men and women who serve our nation proudly. The F-16 Falcon that Line flew in on Tuesday is nearly identical to current combat aircraft with only minor modifications made for its essential role with the Thunderbirds.
"The Thunderbirds are an integral part of the Air Force's recruiting and retention programs," explained Staff Sgt. Randy Redman, chief, community relations, USAF Thunderbirds. "By publicly demonstrating the skills and abilities of Air Force pilots and their maintenance crews, we succeed in attracting talented and ambitious young people to the Air Force. Celebrity orientation flights, such as the one offered Jason, complement this effort nicely through national media exposure.
"Those who have flown with us in the past include sports superstars Kyle Busch, Steven Carlson, Joe Montana and Tiger Woods; actors Brendan Fraser, Matt LeBlanc, Harrison Ford and Holly Hunter, comedian Bill Engvall; and recently Big Kenny of the country music duo Big &Rich."
Line served four years in the Air Force, entering in October of 1987. He achieved the rank of E-4 (or Senior Airman), and was a personnel/duty clerk for the commanding officers at Grand Forks, N.D., and King Salmon, Alaska. Line was honorably discharged from the Air Force in the summer of 1991.
"I really enjoyed being in the Air Force," Line said. "For a kid growing up in Wright, Minn., who had not been very far from Northern Minnesota, it was a great opportunity. To this day, I still have friends in the Air Force who I see every now and then when we travel around the country with the NHRA tour. It's kind of funny because it seems like only yesterday that I was an airman in the Air Force, and now a lot of the guys I met then are starting to retire. The Air Force experience is something I would recommend to anyone looking for a challenging, rewarding career, and a terrific way to serve their country."