OCEAN CITY — Growing up, I loved the movie ‘Top Gun.’ It ranked somewhere between ‘The Karate Kid’ and ‘Back to the Future.’ I longed to be as cool and reckless as Tom Cruise’s character Maverick. I even learned all the words to the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” and would sing it to a girl on my bus back in Pennsylvania each morning on the way to school, much to her chagrin.
Yet, on Wednesday, while flying with world class pilot Jeff Boerboon, who will be performing at at the Ocean City Air Show aboard the Jack Links Screamin’ Sasquatch, somewhere in an aerobatic inverted dive hurtling toward the ocean at a crazy speed, I succumbed to the realization that I never will be a ‘Maverick.’ I am, in fact, a ‘Goose.’
The 15-minute ride above the Ocean City coastline was as aesthetically breathtaking as it was physically challenging as Boerboon jostled me in every direction as he flipped and spun the plane in ways that would make anyone a bit queasy. It wasn’t my first time doing flips in an airplane over the ocean, but it certainly may have been the most memorable, if nothing else, but for the realization that I will never be as cool as the dude that flies 747’s during the day, and does aerobatics in a souped-up bi-plane with a yeti on it that has a literal jet engine attached for added “going-mach 2-with-your-hair-on-fire” effect.
Of course, we live in a world where every possible thing is recorded and shared nowadays, and while I was pulling 6 G’s in a ridiculous old-time bomber hat, I knew there was a small Go-Pro camera in the cockpit capturing every turn.
I cringed to watch it, because let’s be honest, no one looks good or cool in a hat like that, pulling that many face melting G’s in a polka dot shirt.
But, all vanity aside, while the video is hilarious and embarrassing, it’s a memory that I will always have and something that I realize most people will never experience.
In addition, the next few minutes of watching me hold down my lunch while hanging upside down over the Atlantic Ocean is also a few minutes where you aren’t engaged in mind numbing banter about politics, guns, sports teams, or cat videos, and that’s a win in my book.
So, as you have a laugh at my expense for the next few minutes, please take a moment to realize that this weekend’s Airshow is an annual celebration of all the Mavericks in the world. Guys like Jeff Boerboon and guys like the late Capt. Jeff Kuss, who flew Blue Angel number #6 last summer over the same Ocean City coastline I flew on Wednesday. Kuss was tragically killed a little over a week ago in a crash at an airshow in Tennessee. I had the pleasure of interviewing him a year ago. He was humble, soft spoken, and incredibly articulate. I remember feeling very honored to have met him, and for someone who has interviewed and interacted with a lot of famous and high level people over the years, I admit to being desensitized to that sensation most of the time.
We will marvel at the speed of these military jets, civilian aircraft and these collective maestros of the sky.
It was an honor to be in their airspace, pulling mind-numbing aerobatics with them, and for just a moment, allowing a lifelong “Goose” to feel like a “Maverick” in a ridiculous hat.