What’s it like on a Boeing FA-18 Super Hornet? Key West Police Chief Sean Brandenburg can tell you

With the Blue Angels in town for the southernmost NAS Air Show this weekend, some people have been able to experience what it’s like in a Boeing FA-18 Super Hornet.

Key West Police Chief Sean Brandenburg joined one of those flights a few days ago.

He said, “It’s an amazing experience. You go in, they give you a briefing, they teach you some breathing techniques that are supposed to help you keep from passing out while under intense g-forces. I obviously did not pay close enough attention in that class or I did not practice enough because I did lose consciousness three times in my flight.”

There is a video of Chief Brandenburg’s takeoff. At one point, the flight goes vertical for an 8,000 foot climb.

He said, “At the top of that 8,000 foot climb we do kind of a barrel roll maneuver and then level out and you can see NAS Key West very small in the distance. It’s amazing how quickly you go from zero to 8,000 feet. That pull up was I believe 6.3 g’s. So 6.3 times my body weight on me for the entirety of that event. It was an amazing experience.”

Chief Brandenburg also rode in Blue Angel Number 7, where he was right behind the pilot.

He said, “You can see all around you. It’s an amazing viewpoint. The canopy is completely clear all the way over you and around you. You actually have three rearview mirrors in front of you from the seat I’m in. It was a beautiful day. The water was amazing and when we were doing some of the turns, you could see the shadow of the aircraft and the smoke trail on the water. We walked through pretty much every maneuver they’re going to do at the air show this weekend. I got to do it from inside the aircraft. My hat’s off to those men and women that fly those aircraft. He’s talking me through and talking like it’s just a normal day and I’m experiencing so many g’s that I’m going unconscious. It’s a real testament to how in shape they are and how skilled they are at what they do.”

The physical prowess necessary to sustain those flights is incredible.

Chief Brandenburg said, “You have to tighten up muscles in your body and hold your breath and do some breathing techniques to stay awake. We did incrementally increase the g-forces. We started out low and worked our way up, other than that initial 6.3 right out of the gate. The final maneuver we did was 7.4 g’s. I did the math and I weighed 1,400 pounds there for a few moments and that is quite a pressure on your chest and your joints. I was doing really well at staying awake and then I got so mesmerized with everything that was going on, I forgot to do what I was supposed to do and then that’s when I went out.”

It’s an experience Chief Brandenburg won’t soon forget.

He said, “The whole thing was amazing. I really enjoyed the weightlessness. He was able to take me up and we were able to remain weightless for several minutes. That was an awesome feeling. He said this is what you feel like when you’re in space. We flew upside down or inverted for 20, 30 seconds. That was an interesting way to look at the ocean. The whole thing, I keep remembering different parts of it. From takeoff to touch down was awesome.”

Chief Brandenburg has been known to seek out adrenaline-fueled activities from time to time. In fact, he rode in a NASCAR vehicle.

He said, “That was fun, but nowhere near as fast. I asked him to go the speed of sound. We got up to Mach 1 and then we just kept going. We got up to Mach 1.31. I did the math on that. I was doing 1,005 miles per hour. That was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. One thing I was surprised about, though, you know when you’re on a commercial aircraft and there’s that turbulence and bounding around and some noises? I did not experience any of that on this jet. It was like a rocket ship going through the sky. A Cadillac-like ride. It was smooth, no turbulence, just amazing. Better than anything I’ve every ridden in. The abilities of that aircraft are amazing and the pilots are just amazing individuals.”