BARKSDALE AFB, LA (KSLA) - I've been given the privilege to fly in one the great classics of aviation, the B-52 Stratofortress.
Or, as they call it on the streets, "The BUFF."
But that's not exactly a polite term, so I will just leave it at that.
You may recall in May I was also extremely fortunate to snag a seat on a Blue Angels F-18.
For comparison's sake, we're talking the flights are like riding in a Ferrari versus riding in a semi-truck.
With that being said, the preflight process for a media/incentive flight on a B-52 is way more intense than I imagined.
I mean, let's face it, we see them flying over Shreveport-Bossier City every day. They're massive.
I thought I could grab my camera and climb aboard. But boy was I wrong.
If you're wondering why my social media presence Friday was seemingly non-existent, it's because as soon as our morning show ended at 7 a.m., I jumped in the news car and headed to Barksdale Air Force Base, where I spent the entirety of the day, we're talking 8+ hours of training, physical/physiological analysis and equipment fitting.
The first part of the morning was spent with Sgt. Clayton Riegle for equipment training.
Riegle, as he prefers, walked me through the basic equipment I will be wearing on the B-52 and why said equipment is important. He broke it all down from the helmet, to the oxygen mask, to ejector seats, the parachute and everything that comes attached to said gear.
Let me tell you, our military members are prepared at all times for any possible situation. And I will just leave it at that.
Next up was Capt.. Jarrad Thorley, a weapons systems officer who's more commonly known as 'Sabotage.' His duty, discuss bailout/ejection procedures, basically what you need to do to get your tail safely out of the aircraft in the event of an emergency.
What? Emergency? Yes. While I feel 100% confident in the pilot's and crew's ability to safely leave, fly and land this aircraft, everyone on board must be prepared for worst-case scenarios, including myself.
We reviewed every possible exit on the plane, including the ways to safely exit or egress if needed.
He then took me inside the training capsule of the B-52. And let me tell you folks, while the plane is massive, the crew compartment is anything but.
And then when you look at the escape hatch, Lord, if I don't remember anything else, let me remember to keep my arms and legs tucked in as close as possible. While it was a bit intimidating, it was incredible to learn just a fraction of what comes as second nature to the crew.
Then came the fun part, insert Sgt. Martin Ruemenapp. Let me put it this way, Rue is a guy who willingly jumps out of airplanes. So you know he's got a wild hair in him. And did I mention he's afraid of heights?
That's a story for a different day.
Anyway, his duty was emergency parachute training, yep, everything you need to do once you exit the aircraft. From learning how to PLF (Parachute Landing Fall) to actually hanging in a harness reviewing steering techniques, what equipment to ditch/what to keep, he covered it all.
There's no room to be uncomfortable. After all, you're reviewing life-saving techniques; so you better believe I was all in, soaking up everything that I could.
Overall, I think I took it all in as well as I could. But as I mentioned above, I have 100% faith in the crew that is allowing me to fly with them.
After a quick lunch, it was off to flight medicine for physical/physiological exams. Yes, I proudly stood on the scale and bartered with the nurse to shed a few pounds (from the lunch, of course!). Hydration, sleep, food and a lesson on hypoxia.
It was also here when I learned the restroom on the flight was going to be a new challenge. I am going to have to learn how to go #1 standing up! Don't worry, it's not as bad as you may think. And, no, there's no training for it.
But there is a tool used to ease the process. Ladies and gentlemen, I now introduce you to the Freshette. I will not go into details. But, yes, it provides women with ease of access when it comes to using the restroom in, shall we say, unique situations. I told you, there's no room to be shy.
After the stop at flight medicine, it was off to equipment where I was issued my helmet, flight suit, fitted for my oxygen mask, the works. I always thought I had a pretty big head and mouth. But, to my surprise, I measured in as a medium helmet and small mouth. Who would've known?! I'm sure my friends and family would beg to differ on these findings.
The last stop of the day was to meet Capt. Totty. He's my 'go-to man' with the 20th Bomb Squadron who I'll be flying with. I got to meet two other crew members while I was there. In our brief encounter, they all put my mind even more at ease. Hopefully, they'll enjoy spending the 5.5 hours with me as I'm sure I will with them.
As of now, I can't imagine what it will be like to be on board such an iconic aircraft and to see it and its crew in action.
But that will quickly change as Monday morning draws near.
Now, exactly what I'll get to see while I'm on board, well, that's classified. (I've always wanted to say that.)
But I'm not spilling the beans just yet. You'll have to stay tuned to my social media pages and our KSLA Salutes page for updates on my flight.
Remember, when you look to the sky Monday and see a B-52 fly over, there's a good chance it could be me soaring above.