Head over tail fins

An inverted view of the horizon, seen here from an L-39 Albatros, will be common for pilots at the 2016 Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point Air Show. (Dylan Ray photo)

HAVELOCK — The official start for the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point 2016 Air Show may be tonight, but a lucky few got to experience some of the show’s highlights a little early.

Under a bright blue sky, groups of various media personnel met on the flight line Wednesday to partake in media day flights. 

Several jets made their way to the air station to provide rides for members of the media. 

One jet providing rides was the L-39 Albatros, piloted by U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jenna Dolan.

Flying runs in Lt. Col. Dolan’s family. Both her father and brother were pilots. She has been flying since 1997 and has racked up an impressive set of accomplishments in that time. Lt. Col. Dolan was the first female to pilot a Harrier in combat. She flew the planes from 2000 to 2005.

“Flying is just fun,” Lt. Col. Dolan said when asked about her favorite part of flying. 

The sleek jet trainer looked every bit the part of a high-performance military trainer, and has speeds to match.

According to Lt. Col. Dolan, the jet can reach nearly 500 knots at full speed, though she said they would not come close to that speed during the media flights.

Lt. Col. Dolan provided two rides during the day. Each ride lasted about 20 minutes, but those attending the flight were in for a shock: They were given the opportunity to fly the jet and perform small acrobatic tricks like wing overs and aileron rolls. 

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Casey Dodd took the first flight, saying that it was a great experience.

“She asked me if I wanted to take control, and I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’ ” Sgt. Dodd said. “I felt like my brain just dropped through my stomach. I really enjoyed it.”

Dylan Ray, of the News-Times, took the final ride of the day.

“That was amazing,” he said. “It beats the pants off any ride I’ve ever done.”

Though Air Show visitors will not be able to take flights, guests will be able to see acrobatic aerial performances, on the ground displays and many other air-themed fun during the event that also honors the air base’s 75th anniversary.

The show is held every two years, and according to Michael Barton, U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point Director of Public Affairs, set up for the next show starts as soon as one ends, stating that the most important part of planning is figuring out who will perform.

“The first thing we had to do was work with the Blue Angels and get on their schedule,” Mr. Barton said. “We start building on top of that. The real work starts about six months out.” 

The show will be held on the air station’s flight line and over the runway. There will be an aerial box set up that keeps performers separated from the crowd.

“Everything is choreographed for safety and to get the best show we can get,” Mr. Barton said. 

Since the show is on the flight line, guests are fully exposed to the elements of the weather, and Mr. Barton said it was important for guests to prepare for the day accordingly. 

Air Show guests should bring earplugs to protect their hearing from the loud jets. They should also bring sunscreen, hats or umbrellas if it should rain.

Gates for the 2016 Air Show open at 5 p.m. today, and fun continues until Sunday, with the gates opening at 8 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

For more information about the show, visit www.cherrypointairshow.com.

Contact Megan Soult at 252-726-7081, ext. 228; email megan.soult@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @meganCCNT.

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