• Dusty Weis

Lead Balloon Ep. 37 - Blue Angels Ride Along: Becoming the First Podcast to Fly with the Blue Angels

Dusty gets strapped into an F/A-18 Super Hornet to learn how the US Navy does media relations.

For the U.S. Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron, media relations is not a job that just happens on the ground.


Each year, dozens of media reps, influencers and VIPs are invited to take a ride in the back seat of one of the squadron's F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets.

And, in order to help tell the story of the Blue Angels public affairs team, Lead Balloon was invited to be the first podcast to take one of those rides.


In this episode, Dusty is paired up with Lt. Commander Griffin Stangel, #7 Blue

Angels pilot and air show narrator, who is tasked with giving media reps the ride of a lifetime, while at the same time serving as an on-the-record spokesman for the unit. He not only flies the plane, but fields questions and hits talking points with a smile on his face—all while enduring the extreme physical punishment of high-G aviation.


The jet rides are a critical part of the Blue Angels media relations strategy, Stangel notes, because, "We can talk about it all day, but unless you're up here experiencing it, you won't truly know what these pilots are putting themselves through."


Stangel also flies members of the Blue Angels public affairs team to capture photos and videos of the squadron in action. As we learned in the last episode, it's a remarkable ordeal to operate a camera in the middle of "the most intense roller coaster" ride in the world.

Dusty Weis flies with the Blue Angels
Dusty Weis flies with the Blue Angels

This time, we visit the team at their Pensacola headquarters, and we'll take you through a day-in-the-life as a member of the Blue Angels public affairs team: early morning pre-flight briefing, special breathing techniques to avoid "G-Force Induced Loss-of-Consciousness," strapping in to the fighter jet, and a memorable, adrenaline-soaked flight in an F/A-18 Super Hornet.


The Blue Angels are supported by a team of more than 150 U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel, and we meet a number of them, including:

  • #7 Pilot and Narrator, Lt. Commander Griffin Stangel

  • Public Affairs Chief MCC Michael Russell

  • #7 Crew Chief AD2 Cam Tuzon

  • AE2 Dale Pascua

  • Public Affairs Specialist MC2 Cody Hendrix

Special thanks as well to Blue Angels Public Affairs Officer Lt. Chelsea Dietlin and Public Affairs Chief MCC Paul Archer for helping coordinate Lead Balloon's embed with the squadron, as well as Jim Schlueter, Paul Guse and Dave Oates.


Make sure to check out the epic video version of this podcast!


Subscribe to the Podcamp Media e-newsletter for more behind-the-scenes footage.


Special music for this episode was performed and recorded by Ty Christian and Brian Koenig of the metal act Lords of the Trident, which is touring this fall in the U.S., Canada and Japan.


Additional music by the Revolution, Tiger Gang and Dr. Delight.



Transcript:


Dusty Weis:

Media relations is usually a duty that takes place on the ground... unless you're LCDR Griffin Stangel, #7 Pilot for the US Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron... and, the designated Media Relations Ambassador for every person who's invited to ride along in a Blue Angels fighter jet...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

You know, the jet rides are the first hand experience. We can talk about it all day, but unless you're up here experiencing it you won't truly know what these pilots are putting themselves through, and all the work they're putting in.


Dusty Weis:

So what is it like to experience a flight in a Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet? In the last episode we set out to tell the story of the Blue Angels Public Affairs Team. Members of which are often tasked with doing their jobs from the back seat of these fighter jets. And it seemed to me like knowing the answer to that question was an important part of the storytelling process. So when we were offered the opportunity to become the first podcast to fly with the Blue Angels well ...


Oh yeah baby! Yeah! Whoo!


I think it suffices to say that I was pretty enthusiastic. I'm Dusty Weis from Podcamp Media, this is Lead Balloon, a podcast about compelling tales from the world of PR marketing and branding, told by the well meaning communications professionals who live their lives in the danger zone.


Thanks for tuning in, a couple of quick notes here. If this is your first time joining us on Lead Balloon, welcome. We tell stories of strategic communicators doing their jobs under the most intense, high stakes professional circumstances most of them have ever faced in their careers. Because, I think there's a lot that we can learn from those stories.


Our catalog of episodes includes White House communicators, some of the internet's most famous social media managers, marketing executives from companies like Coca-Cola and LinkedIn. So if you are a branding PR or marketing professional and you like hearing these stories from the people who lived them, make sure you subscribe to Lead Balloon and your favorite podcast app and go back and check out some of those past episodes as well.


Also, podcasts are an audio medium but flying in a Blue Angels fighter plane was a highly visual experience. I captured a ton of awesome video and I cut it together into a video minidoc. The link is in the episode description, it's also up at the PodCamp Media YouTube page or at Podcampmedia.com/leadballoon.


This episode is part 2 in a two part series. In part 1 we embedded with the Blue Angels Public Affairs Team at the Chicago Air and Water Show.


We got up close and personal with the details of how they do their incredibly intense jobs, and how they handle that pressure. And we learned about how they're called upon to run photography missions in the fighter jets themselves, and run the risk of literally blacking out on the job. I called it the most elite public affairs in the world, and I stand by that more than ever now. But the point is, if you missed that episode go back and check it out. Either after or before this one, the order doesn't matter. And you'll get a full appreciation of the history and mission of this iconic squadron, which as we established, has at its core a branding, marketing, and public relations directive.


I wanted to get a first hand understanding of what it's like to try and work in an elite public affairs unit like that. And so, the Blue Angels team invited me to their home base in Pensacola, to see if I had what it takes to do my job under those extremes. So I flew in on a Monday, and I was up at a quarter to five on Tuesday morning caffeinated and ready to rock. Well, as ready as I could be anyway...


Well, it's early and I'm waiting at an undisclosed location for MC2 Cody Hendrix to come and escort me onto the naval base here. I didn't sleep great, but I've definitely slept worse. We've got briefing at 06:45 coming up in about a half hour.

A few minutes later Cody pulls into the parking lot.


Good morning!


MC2 Cody Hendrix:

Do we go?


Dusty Weis:

Yeah. You want me to follow you?


MC2 Cody Hendrix:

Yeah.


Dusty Weis:

All right, let's do it.


We make the short drive out to Naval Airbase Pensacola-


Turning right into Forrest Sherman Field, home of the Blue Angels.

... and park outside a huge, nondescript warehouse, behind which I can see the unmistakable blue tail of the Blue Angels C-130 transport plane sticking up like a shark fin. I haul my gear out of the rental and we make our way through another level of security...


MC2 Cody Hendrix:

Hydrated?


Dusty Weis:

Been hydrating like a marathon runner man.


MC2 Cody Hendrix:

Nice.


Dusty Weis:

I'm not kidding either. Over the last 24 hours I have taken to heart every piece of advice the Blue Angels Public Affairs Team has given me, about preparing for the physical ordeal I'm about to endure. Two big bland meals to stick to my ribs, no wine or booze with dinner, and as much rest as my keyed up brain would let me get. I have been waiting for this day my whole life, and I want to give it my all...


No, it's cool though. I got butterflies. This is one of those things that like, wanted to do since I was a 7-year-old kid man.


MC2 Cody Hendrix:

Yeah, it lives up to the hype too. You'll see.


Dusty Weis:

Cody walks me into the building and up a flight of stair, into the administrative offices of the Blue Angels Squadron, which are already bustling in spite of the fact that it's just past 6:30 in the morning.

AD2 Cam Tuzon and AE2 Dale Pascua conduct Dusty's pre-flight briefing.
Dusty's pre-flight briefing.

I get changed into my navy blue flight suit with gold lettering. And then I'm introduced to #7 Crew Chief Cam Tuzon and Coms Tech Dale Pascua, who will be conducting my safety briefing and get me strapped snugly into the plane. Their jobs are primarily centered on the aircraft, its care and maintenance. But as we learned in the last episode, every member of the Blue Angels team, even the wrench turners, are trained in public affairs best practices. Because, every one of them is expected to support its public affairs mission when they interact with the civilian population.


We start off with cockpit familiarization, where Cam shows me photos of the interior of the plane and makes it clear that mine is strictly the role of passenger and observer here...


AD2 Cam Tuzon:

... anything that is black and yellow you will not touch.


Dusty Weis:

Got it.


AD2 Cam Tuzon:

Don't touch, don't touch, and above all do not touch that.


Dusty Weis:

He points to a big black and yellow loop in the foot well, the handle to engage the emergency ejection seat...


AD2 Cam Tuzon:

If you touch that, the canopy goes up, you go up, and 7 ends up coming back in convertible. We don't want that.


Dusty Weis:

I have to say, this is the first assignment I've ever been on in which the topic of ejecting from an aircraft is even a remote possibility...


AD2 Cam Tuzon:

We call it the bonus ride. It's not going to happen, but just in case if it does happen again. Like I said, every now and then certain things will happen with the aircraft and the pilot may or may not be able to take care of the situation.


Dusty Weis:

But in the ounce of prevention milieu, my briefing includes instructions on how to eject from the jet...


AD2 Cam Tuzon:

So, when he hits the eject the sequence goes canopy, you, and then him. Like I said, you don't have to worry about anything.


Dusty Weis:

How to keep all my limbs attached ...


AD2 Cam Tuzon:

Since you're sitting on a rocket and the rocket is about to go up, we don't want any limbs hanging out-


Dusty Weis:

Right, anything you want to keep.


AD2 Cam Tuzon:

Yes.


Dusty Weis:

Tuck it away safe.


AD2 Cam Tuzon:

Exactly.


Dusty Weis:

And even how to deploy and land a parachute ...


AD2 Cam Tuzon:

And when the chute deploys you're going to see these two red handles. You're going to grab those two red handles, and then you're going to pull down as hard as you can.


Dusty Weis:

I won't lie, all this talk about ejector seats is a little off-putting. But I know that realistically my odds of having to put it into practice are incredibly slim. Rather, the hazard that I know I'm going to face today is that posed by the first and second laws of physics. When we shadowed the Blue Angels Public Affairs Team in Chicago, we learned that the F/A-18 Super Hornet's quick, fierce maneuvering capabilities exert up to 7 1/2 times the force of gravity on pilots, photographers, and passengers when they fly. That amount of G-Force will pull the blood away from your brain if you're not prepared for it, causing g-LOC, gravity induced loss of consciousness.


And since unconsciousness would seriously impede my ability to document the conditions under which the Blue Angels Public Affairs Team performs it's duties ...


AD2 Cam Tuzon:

We have this technique which is called AGSM, which is Anti-G strain maneuver. What that does is, it pretty much prevents the blood leaving our brain when we're pulling Gs, and it prevents us from g-LOCing, which in other words is going to sleep. I mean, if that does happen to you today sir, don't be alarmed, don't be ashamed-


Dusty Weis:

I'll be a little ashamed.


AD2 Cam Tuzon:

... you don't do this for a living. So AGSM is, you're pretty much in a squat. You'll flex your calves, you're going to flex your thighs, hamstrings, your buttocks, and you're going to imagine me punching you as hard as I can in the stomach.


Dusty Weis:

Great.


AD2 Cam Tuzon:

So, you're going to flex as hard as you can.


Dusty Weis:

As if locking up every muscle in the lower half of my body isn't enough, there's also a special breathing technique which I'm expected to execute while my body weighs the equivalent of 1,200 pounds...


AD2 Cam Tuzon:

You're going to take a deep breath, 1/4 breath out, lock it down. And then every 3 seconds you're going to take a quick exhale/inhale, as much as you can and as quick as you can. So if you have a turbo in your lungs, you've got to activate that. Okay?


Dusty Weis:

Mm-hmm.


AD2 Cam Tuzon:

And also, the little K is to activate your lower neck muscles to strain so no blood leaves, if that makes sense.


Dusty Weis:

Okay.


AD2 Cam Tuzon:

All right. So now we're going to try to practice. Obviously, you're not strapped in.


Dusty Weis:

Right.


AD2 Cam Tuzon:

Ready, hit it.


Dusty Weis:

(breathing practice).


AD2 Cam Tuzon:

And relax. Not bad.


Dusty Weis:

Okay. Pretty much like that.


AD2 Cam Tuzon:

Yeah, that was perfect. Well, you knocked that one out of the park. Okay. So I guess we don't have to go over that again-


Dusty Weis:

We can, we can.

Blue Angel #7.
Blue Angel #7.

Even with that encouragement, I'll admit the butterflies in my stomach are flapping double time. Well when Dale finally tells me it's time to walk out onto the tarmac, it's all I can do not to sprint out the door from excitement.


We stride out between the double row of blue and gold fighter jets, sparkling in the rising sun, and every step feels surreal. Our jet is distinguished by the big #7 painted in gold on it's blue tail fin and the cockpit canopy hinged open on it's back. I climb up the fold out ladder and start settling myself into the well worn back seat in front of a formidable looking instrument panel. And Dale starts strapping me in with thick, heavy duty canvas safety restraints...


AE2 Dale Pascua:

Thank you.

AE2 Dale Pascua straps Dusty in.
AE2 Dale Pascua straps Dusty in.

Dusty Weis:

These planes are a modern marvel at air shows. But up close and personal, that's even somehow magnified. It's like snuggling up to a magnificent, complex piece of industrial art. Ankles, thighs, shoulders, chest, and then one beefy lap belt that I swear is as thick as a 100 page paperback, all are strapped in and tightened down as the trainer jets in the next row begin warming up for their morning flight. This is an active airbase after all.

Finally Cam springs up the ladder again and tucks two white plastic baggies into my leg harnesses...

AD2 Cam Tuzon distributes airsick bags.
AD2 Cam Tuzon distributes airsick bags.

AD2 Cam Tuzon:

Now with this ride, sir, come with a limited edition air sickness bags.


Dusty Weis:

I briefly wonder how many times the metal and plastic interior of the jet has been hosed out with a pressure washer before Dale hands me a cloth beanie for my head, over which he straps the heavy duty branded Blue Angles flight helmet and locks my mirrored visor in place...


AE2 Dale Pascua:

And, go time. Now we're talking.


Dusty Weis:

And with me, the cargo, all strapped in there's nothing left but to wait for the pilot to arrive from is briefing. I even have time for a quick FaceTime session with my wife and kids back in Wisconsin, much to the delight of the 4 and 2-year-olds...


Hello!

Dusty facetimes with his family.
Dusty facetimes with his family.

Dusty's Kid:

Daddy!


Dusty Weis:

Hey buddy!


Dusty's Kid:

Have fun flying.


Dusty Weis:

Thank you. I'm going to take lots of pictures and video to show to you guys, okay?

Finally, in his bright blue flight suit and khaki garrison cap Blue Angel #7, Lieutenant Commander Griffin Stangel from Madison, Wisconsin strides out, completes his pre-flight walk around, climbs up the ladder to introduce himself...Good morning sir.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Dusty, how you doing?

AE2 Dale Pascua has Dusty ready to fly.
AE2 Dale Pascua has Dusty ready to fly.

Dusty Weis:

Good. How are you?


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

I'm Griffin, I'm good.


Dusty Weis:

Griffin then slides into the front seat and Dale helps him into his harnesses. We check our radios ...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

All right, Dusty. Please keep your hands clear, canopy's coming down. We'll get this thing fired up.


Dusty Weis:

And the clear plastic bubble hinges down over our heads and locks into place...

Dusty Weis, podcast host, wanna-be aviator.
Dusty Weis, podcast host, wanna-be aviator.

LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Once we get this motor online we'll get some air conditioning going, stay nice and cool. All right. Now we're going to test out the flight controls.


Dusty Weis:

Griffin works the controls, the flaps on the wings and tail swing wildly through their range of motion, and the plane rocks with the sudden movement. Directly off the nose of the plane I see Dale and Cam signaling Griffin using their arms, that everything is functioning as it should. Griffin guns the throttle and the plane pulls out onto the taxiway, while Dale, Cam, and the technicians actually applaud.


As we discussed, part of the branding is that every flight of the Blue Angels planes is a celebration, even when it's just a ride along for some nerdy podcaster. And as we bump our way out to the runway, Griffin and I get to know one another between bursts of air traffic control radio chatter ...


So Lieutenant Commander Griffin, I have to ask you before we do this here. What is an appropriate level of enthusiasm for a back seat rider to demonstrate?


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

As much as you want man. I would say ... I mean, if your excited don't hide it. I could always turn you down if you start yelling in the back (laughs).


Dusty Weis:

(laughs) I might get loud.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

That's all right. I'll give you a roller coaster ride.


Dusty Weis:

Oh, love it. I heard you knocked out a MMA Fighter in Hawaii.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

That is true, yeah.


Dusty Weis:

(laughs).


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

And, thankful we didn't step in the octagon afterwards (laughs).


Dusty Weis:

(laughs). Well whatever he got, give me just short of that.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

All right.


Dusty Weis:

Just short.


Griffin positions the plane at the end of the taxiway, behind a line of other air traffic all cued up for takeoff. But with a word from air traffic control ...


ATC:

1-7, give way to the Blue Angel on alpha.


Dusty Weis:

All the other planes move off to the side, making way for us...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Busy out here this morning.


Dusty Weis:

Blue Angels take precedence at Air Station Pensacola ...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

All right brother, you ready to go?


Dusty Weis:

Absolutely. We turn out onto the runway...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

We're gonna select max afterburner.

Max afterburner.
Max afterburner.

Dusty Weis:

It's like I've been thumped in the back by a giant hammer...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

There's the light off. Whoo now!


Dusty Weis:

The unreal acceleration pushes my helmet back into the seat...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

There's 50 knots.


Dusty Weis:

And within seconds we're airborne...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

We rotate at 125, there she is.


Dusty Weis:

Oh yeah!

LCDR Griffin Stangel and Dusty Weis
LCDR Griffin Stangel and Dusty Weis

Griffin keeps up a dialogue with air traffic control while the plane banks to the right, turning south and flying out over the bay between the mainland and Pensacola Beach. It's immediately apparent how much different this plane is from anything else I've ever flow in. The way it moves through the air is effortless, there's no strain. The power from those two jet engines is smooth and more than capable of doing whatever Griffin asks the plane to do. By comparison, commercial airliner I flew on to get here feels like a city bus with wings duct taped on.


We coast easily up to 3,000 feet out over the inlet to the bay, and then air traffic control chimes in with our clearance up to 14,000 feet...


ATC:

Blue Angel 7, climb-maintain 1-4 thousand.


Dusty Weis:

Most planes will make that ascent over the course of 5 minutes or so, but the Super Hornet does it in 20 seconds flat...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

All right, up we go.


Dusty Weis:

Here we go. Oh yeah baby (laughs)! Yeah!


With no warning, my reaction surprises even me. I am squished back into my seat like it's a rocket launch. My head and arms double and triple in weight. My stomach lurches, and the water below falls away like a set piece. In that moment every roller coaster in the world is ruined forever. And I cannot contain the giddy surprise that spills out of my mouth...


Oh, sorry about that.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Hey, it's all good. Hey, we're going to do a little zero G pushover, coming up here. All right?


Dusty Weis:

Yes sir!


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

All right. Here we go.


Dusty Weis:

Ascending at upwards of 500 feet per second, Griffin eases us out of that climb into a shallow dive and suddenly I'm floating in my restraints. I say floating, but really zero gravity feels like falling. It's a trick of physics, of course, because relative to my previous momentum straight up we are basically in free fall. My brain struggles to mediate between what my eyes are seeing and what my inner ear is feeling. And I realize I'm grinning like an idiot, as I sink back into my seat after 7 or 8 seconds of weightlessness...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Still feeling all right back there?


Dusty Weis:

Oh man, I would fly commercial a lot more if it was like this.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

(laughs).


Dusty Weis:

The coastline disappears behind us at 500 miles an hour, and it's time to get to know Griffin in his role as a Media Relations practitioner and pilot. It's time to see what this Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet can really do. And it's time to see if I've got what it takes to handle the punishing experience of Naval Aviation Public Affairs. And that is all coming up in a minute here on Lead Balloon.


This is Lead Balloon, and I'm Dusty Weis. In the world of Media Relations in general there's nothing more demanding, more stressful than the interview. It's the culmination of all the media outreach, the research, the coordination, the preparation, everything is inherently on the record. The cameras are running and there are no do-overs. It's the moment of truth in Media Relations and the stakes are always high.


I've conducted thousands of media interviews in my career, both as the interviewer and the interviewee. I've talked to presidents, Hall of Fame athletes, billion dollar executives, but none of them, not a one, was operating a $50 million state-of-the-art piece of complicated avionics technology in which I was riding while we talked...


So, you're #7.

LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Yep.


Dusty Weis:

You have the job of being both the face and the voice of the Blue Angels Squadron. And I've got to say from where I'm sitting, that's pretty much Webster's text book definition of best of both worlds.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

(laughs).


Dusty Weis:

So, how'd you go about getting a job like that?


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Well, there's actually a lot that goes on behind the scenes. You know, when I step out-


Dusty Weis:

Lieutenant Commander Griffin Stangel, #7 pilot for the US Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron serves as the on-microphone narrator at Blue Angels airshows as well as the pilot and host for media relations ride alongs. Ride alongs like the one that we're doing right now, 14,000 feet above the hazy blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, cruising at somewhere between 450 and 575MPH...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Yeah, I'm the face that they see. I'm the voice that they hear, but there's a ground team behind all that. They make sure we are safe and effective. We've got the aircraft we need, and I'm honored to be a part of that.


Dusty Weis:

I can't see his face while we speak, he's in the front seat and I'm in the back. But, I can see the top of his yellow flight helmet over the instrument panel in front of me. And what he's doing, fielding my questions, hitting his talking points, while at the same time flying and F/A-18 Super Hornet and coordinating with air traffic control, whom you'll hear periodically over the radio. It's the most extreme example of media relations I've ever witnessed. And in a minute this situation is going to get even more intense for both of us, as he pushes this aircraft and our bodies to the limits of their capabilities. It is without a doubt the most extraordinary interview of my career...


We got to follow you guys around at Chicago a little bit, watching you do your thing.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Oh yeah.


Dusty Weis:

Yeah dude. And I just have to ask you, as one guy that's made a life behind a microphone to another guy. Are you a big talker who became an aviator, or are you an aviator who became a big talker?


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Aviator who became a big talker.


Dusty Weis:

Yeah?


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Yeah. I mean, through flight training you get the opportunity to practice your public speaking. You give briefs, talk about flight conduct. You get to leave briefs-


ATC:

Convoy 1-2,...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Honestly, this is a whole other level.


Dusty Weis:

Seriously. I mean, nobody else in the world does what you do under the conditions that you do it under.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Yeah.


Dusty Weis:

I mean, what's going through your head when you look around and you say, "Oh, this is my office. This is my studio."


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Honestly, I'm more in the mindset of trying to fix what I screwed up last time. So, any little ... Whether it's speaking on the mic or flying-


ATC:

Physical departure. We've got a 1-0 passing 1,000.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Really just trying to improve based on yesterday's performance kind of thing.


Dusty Weis:

You wind up doing a lot of media relations as part of your job, obviously. You're doing it right now. In the world of media relations I've always told people, "You can send out a press release, you can write up a blog post, but the best media relations I like to think is in experience." What's lost in the media relations process if you're not able to give a media representative this first person experience?


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

You know, the jet rides, we could talk about it all day. But unless you're up here experiencing it, you won't truly know what these pilots are putting themselves through with the flight demo and all the work they're putting in.


Dusty Weis:

Yeah. I'm getting a sense for that, I really am.


That awkward chuckle is because I know what's coming next. He told me what he's going to show me. Now, he's going to show me...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

We're going to be getting ready to pull some Gs here, friend. So, we're going to descend down just a little bit, into about 10,000 feet. And we're going to see how our bodies are feeling, all right? So, we're going to do a little bit of a G warmup.


Dusty Weis:

Griffin puts the plane into a gradual dive, using gravity to pile on speed that's going to create the inertia that will punish our bodies. I flex my muscles, push my feet against the floor, and breathe how Cam and Dale instructed me...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

All right. So we're coming to right for 3 Gs. Ready, hit it.


Dusty Weis:

The plane rolls hard, and I see sky to my left and ocean to my right. Our nose tracks along the horizon...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

There's 2, 2 1/2. There's 3, right there.


Dusty Weis:

And my body's momentum tries to pull me and my blood through the floor of the plane...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

All right. We're coming back to left for four now.


Dusty Weis:

The plane makes a snap roll 180º, so the ocean is now to my left and we pull up even harder...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

All right. Squeeze the legs.


Dusty Weis:

I am straining every muscle in the lower half of my body, which literally feels like it weighs close to 700 pounds...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

There's 3 1/2, there's 4 right there. Squeeze the legs, push out with the abs. And we're rolling out. All right. We'll catch our breath here for a second.


Dusty Weis:

Whoo! Oh man!


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

You ready to bump it up to 6?


Dusty Weis:

Give me one second.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

All right.


Dusty Weis:

I take a moment to re-situate and catch my breath. I realize I am sweating profusely...

Just a little bit of a workout.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Oh yeah.


Dusty Weis:

When you are ready, sir.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

All right. We are coming to the right for 6 Gs. Squeeze the legs, full G strength. Ready, hit it.


Dusty Weis:

This time the roll to the right is almost violent...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

There's 5 1/2.


Dusty Weis:

And the plane shakes as it's buffeted by the air...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

There's 6.


Dusty Weis:

The Gs don't come on gradually, it feels like I'm being hit by a thousand pounds of sandbags all at once. In an instant, colors drain away and darkness creeps into my peripheral vision. This is what they call graying out, which means that I'm close to losing consciousness. But I strain through that turn...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

We're rolling out. All right brother, how are you feeling?


Dusty Weis:

Started graying out a little bit, but ... Whoa man! That was a lot.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Right.


Dusty Weis:

That got real heavy there. How are ... Do you get gray during that, or you as cool as a cucumber?


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

No, the body gets used to the G after so many flights.


Dusty Weis:

Uh-huh.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

So, we're pretty accustomed to pulling these Gs all the time.


Dusty Weis:

Oh man.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Yeah. But the next thing I want to show you is a Split S, all right?


Dusty Weis:

All right. What am I getting ready for here?


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

About 4 Gs, we're going to roll inverted and then pull for the back half of the loop. You ready to go?


Dusty Weis:

Oh, hell yes.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

All right. Here we go. Ready, hit it.


Dusty Weis:

This time the plane rolls all the way over...


Oh yeah!

And I'm hanging upside down from my seat restraints. Griffin pulls up, hard, which since we're upside down actually points the nose of the plane towards the ground and puts us into a steep dive...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

There's a smoke trail if you look straight up.


Dusty Weis:

Condensation billows up over the wings of the plane, as the aerodynamic pressure forms little clouds...


This is incredible!


As we finish the half loop and grind back into level flight against our 4 Gs of momentum.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Yeah!


Dusty Weis:

Whoo!


The alarms sound is likely some kind of stall warning, basically an automated reminder to the pilot that they're doing something crazy. Which, well duh...


Oh my God!


Between fits of giddy yelling I'm literally panting for breath, my head is spinning, and my normally rock solid stomach is trying to recombobulate its cardinal directions...

Oh, you know, you can talk about that nonstop. You can be briefed, you can be told what to expect-


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

But until you do it.


Dusty Weis:

... then when it hits you. That is not what I even expected.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

(laughs). Well, all right. Next thing I'm going to show you, we're going to slow down just a little bit. Nice easy roll, all right? So all we're going to do, it'll be about 2-3 Gs at most. We're setting up for the Delta Roll. And up we go.


Dusty Weis:

We swoop down out of the sky toward the water, and the begin a gradual climb...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

There's 22º nose-high, little push, little roll.


Dusty Weis:

Imagine a giant invisible cardboard paper towel tube. The Delta Roll takes us gradually around the inside of that tube with our feet facing out as we drift upside down through a complete 360º roll...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Guys, we're upside down here.


Dusty Weis:

Yeah!


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Just imagine, there's 5 other aircraft flying in formation off those gold wing tips right now.


Dusty Weis:

It's not scary or violent like the high G turns, this is just majestic...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

And that's what these guys are doing, day in and day out. All right the next thing I want to show you is the half-cubit eight. Okay? We're going to go up, basically the first half of a loop.


Dusty Weis:

All right.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

And then once we are upside down, pointed the other direction, we're just going to roll upright. This is what the diamond does on takeoff, all right?


Dusty Weis:

All right.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

And up we go.


Dusty Weis:

More G forces tug at my body, more clouds form rushing over our blue wings...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

There's the vertical. We're pulling over the top.


Dusty Weis:

Pure vertical.


We're flying straight up into the sky, and for the F/A-18 it's effortless...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

If you look straight up, you can see our smoke trail where we just came from.


Dusty Weis:

Outstanding.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

And all four diamond jets will do this right on takeoff, in diamond formation.


Dusty Weis:

Wow.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

All right. We're going to speed things up a little bit, okay?


Dusty Weis:

Oh God, okay. (laughs).


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

This is going to be a low G maneuver, but we're going to roll the aircraft as quick as it will roll. Okay?


Dusty Weis:

All right.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

All right, we're doing two rolls to the left. Ready, hit it.


Dusty Weis:

The world rotates around us like we're a pig on a spit...


Whoo hoo!


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

There's one.


Dusty Weis:

In four seconds flat we rotate twice...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

And two.


Dusty Weis:

(laughs).


No roller coaster can compare with this...Oh God! (laughs). I hope I'm not too annoying back here.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Nah, man!


Dusty Weis:

This is the ride of my life man.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Hey, I feed off the enthusiasm and energy. Trust me.


Dusty Weis:

Oh God.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

All right. The next thing I'm going to do, we're just going to do some 0 G flying, all right? Like the astronauts do for their space training.


Dusty Weis:

All right.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

And we're just going to push over for 0 Gs. Okay?


Dusty Weis:

All right.


Free fall, again.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Here's half a G, there's 0. Floating in the seat right now, totally weightless.


Dusty Weis:

Incredible.


I look at my arms, in disbelief as they float in the air. It's like a crazy dream, it doesn't seem real.(laughs)...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

And we're coming back down.


Dusty Weis:

It occurs to my oxygen starved brain that this is my chance to prove that I'm capable of doing my job under the same adrenaline soaked conditions as the Blue Angels Public Affairs Team...


So, they told me that all the pilots have a call sign.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Yeah.


Dusty Weis:

And it's the call sign that they earned, and that yours is Push Pop.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Yeah.


Dusty Weis:

Tell me about that.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Well, I'll tell you the long story. But the short version is, I'm an ice cream eating champion.


Dusty Weis:

Okay (laughs).


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

I was on a carrier, my stomach might have gotten a little upset afterwards.


Dusty Weis:

So it does happen to you.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Well, when somebody challenges you to an ice cream eating contest I'm not one to back down. You know?


Dusty Weis:

(laughs).


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

I'm going to push myself a little bit harder than I thought I was capable of. You know?


Dusty Weis:

But you won?


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Oh yeah.


Dusty Weis:

Okay, good. That's all that matters.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

I'm not a quitter. All right. We're going to flip upside down. All right?


Dusty Weis:

Yes sir.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Just fly inverted for a little bit.


Dusty Weis:

Griffin demonstrates some more of the Super Hornet's low speed handling capabilities, and I get my camera out. I'm starting to feel like I've got my sea legs a little bit, and I need to make sure that I've got some cut away B roll to show for the trip after all. But I keep a tight grip, remembering the stern warning from Dale about how much damage a loose camera can do banging off the instruments and canopy...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Even though we're only going 120 knots, we can still select max after burner. We feel those light off.


Dusty Weis:

(laughs).


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

And we can still just climb away like a rocket ship, like it's nothing. You know?


Dusty Weis:

What other aircraft have you flown besides the F/A-18?


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

To be honest, not a whole lot. The trainers, the T-45s which are parked right next to our jets on the line. And then I've also flown the T-6, which is also flown in Pensacola. So besides that, had a little bit of civilian experience flying single engine Cessnas, that kind of stuff. But that's pretty much it. You know?


Dusty Weis:

So obviously nothing else that stacks up to this.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

No. I remember the first time I took off in an F-18, and no kidding, lit the after burners for the first time. It's a pretty wild sensation.


Dusty Weis:

Are you going to be spoiled for the rest of your life?


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

You know, there's that distinct possibility. But, that just kind of reminds me to take every day and give it 100%, and not take anything for granted because you never know when life changes. The next thing you know, you've already had your last F-18 flight. I don't know when that day's going to be, but I'm going to take advantage of every day I can leading up to it.


Dusty Weis:

Yeah. This is a gift man. This is a top 5 life experience right here. I know you don't take it for granted, and that's awesome. Before I black out for puke back here, I just want to make sure I thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this possible. Because this is special.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Well, I'm glad you're having fun. But the next one I want to show you is the medium radius turn. All right? All it is, it's a high G maneuver, all right. So, as we do the 360 across the horizon, we'll roll the aircraft 90º angle, bank to the left, and basically just pull level. That first 90º turn is about 7 Gs, okay? So it'll be a full G strain. And then as we continue to turn, we're going to keep going at about 5 Gs as we back it out just a little bit. But even though we're backing off from 7 to 5, you've got to keep that full G strain going. All right?


Dusty Weis:

I start my breathing, trying to get as much oxygen to my brain as possible and put my head back against the seat. I know what's coming this time and I know it's going to hurt...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

You ready to go?


Dusty Weis:

Yep.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

All right. Coming left for the big racer. Ready, hit it.


Dusty Weis:

1,200 pounds of crushing pressure hits me all at once. Immediately I gray out, and I'm seeing the world from the bottom of a long, dark tunnel. I'm still fighting for consciousness and flexing my legs. Even my limbs feel miles away. I hear Griffin taking his own G strain breaths, but to me everything's echoing...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Just squeeze.


Dusty Weis:

Even the skin on my face is being dragged down to the floor of the plane, but slowly, finally, the pressure eases. Colors run back into my vision, and the plane levels off with the horizon...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Yeah!


Dusty Weis:

Yeah baby!


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Nice work. How you feeling?


Dusty Weis:

Whoo! Almost lost it there. Oh!


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Real, real nice work. We hit 7 Gs on that one. You lose a little vision on it?


Dusty Weis:

Yeah. No, I definitely grayed out and then ... Oh, you gave me a break at just the right time there, because I was taking a nap (laughs).


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Well, I heard you working back there, so I'm pretty sure you didn't go all the way out.


Dusty Weis:

Whoo! No, no, I was there.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

But really, really nice work.


Dusty Weis:

The full consequences of what my body just experienced catch up to me all at once. I am soaked in sweat. I cannot catch my breath, and a wave of nausea wells up to remind me just how close I came to blacking out. The laws of physics are rules, not suggestions. They cannot be broken, and they don't appreciate being defied. They will make you pay for hubris. I swallow a belch and try to power through...


So you wind up taking a lot of media people out.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Yeah. Usually I do at least one media ride every airshow we go to.


Dusty Weis:

How do people typically react?


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

You know, you get the full, "Hey, I just want to go fly around, maybe do one loop." And then you get the people who are like, "I want more Gs." And I'm like, "I can't, the jet won't give you anymore. That's all I got." You know what I mean? There's some people who done pretty sick right off the bat, and they just want to turn around and come home, and dude, I totally get it.


Dusty Weis:

Do you get a good sense when you meet somebody, how they're going to do up there? Can you look at them and be like, "Oh yeah, he's going to black out," or, "She's going to be a champ."


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Not really, actually. Because, I mean, it's all based on physical conditioning, hydration, and to be honest, sleep. So if you're rested, hydrated, and in decent shape you're probably going to do pretty well. That's why we do a bit of a warmup, we don't go right off the bat with 7 1/2 Gs, we save that for the end of the flight.


Dusty Weis:

I have no idea how Griffin is still so chipper. I feel like I've been hit by a truck. I was feeling great for the first 45 minutes of this experience, but that 7 G minimum radius turn flipped a switch for me, and now I am struggling just to have a conversation...

As professional communicators it's our job to use our words to describe things to other people and to make them understand. And as I'm sitting here right now looking around me, we're flying through the clouds-


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Yeah.


Dusty Weis:

... the sun filtering down, ocean below us. I'm going to get home, eventually I'm going to have to sit down and pound out my feelings about this onto a keyboard and then recite that back into a microphone. I need some help.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Yeah (laughs).


Dusty Weis:

Griffin, I need some help. How do you put to words this experience for the folks back home?


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Honestly, it's a blessing and it's a culmination of a lot of hard work from a lot of different people. But, it's amazing what a phenomenal team can do when everybody's firing on all cylinders, and you're striving towards a common goal. It's a privilege to be working with such incredible people, who are so dedicated to giving their all every day. And, being able to say I'm a part of the Blue Angel Team is just a true blessing.


Dusty Weis:

Yeah, yeah, I feel that.


Privilege and a blessing. Lieutenant Commander Griffin Stangel nails it there. Even though I'm now feel exhausted and quite ill, still panting from exertion, I can't help but look around in awe. We float surreally with the clouds, and just as effortlessly as they do. And I realize I'm living a dream, both figuratively and literally. Figuratively because there was a time in my life when I aspired to be a fighter pilot. Though, ultimately the pull of a career as a professional story teller won out.


But literally because, when you have that dream, the dream where you can fly, this is what it's like. You just stretch your arms out and will it to happen and it's effortless, it's peaceful. In that dream you belong in the sky. The F/A-18 Super Hornet is a machine that belongs in the sky. Where a commercial liner strains against gravity, the Super Hornet defies it. I fully understand now, that the people who operate these planes are, on top of everything else, phenomenal athletes, tough, disciplined, insatiable. And through their intense training they also become creatures of the sky.


Up there, surfing among the clouds, this machine and its pilot were undeniably in their element. And for 60 precious minutes, because of this rare invitation to join them, I belonged there too. It was like coming home. It made a liar of me for every other time I've used the word transcendent in my life, because this was transcendence. This was the definition of flight...


What do you remember about your first flight?


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

I felt like I was behind, right?


Dusty Weis:

Yeah.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

You do so many sims, you mentally prepare for what you're about to go do. But, all the sensations of flying the aircraft with so much power and just being able to maneuver so quickly. It's different and it's an experience unlike anything else.


Dusty Weis:

That it is.


We begin a leisurely flight back to the coast and Griffin tells me that there's one last maneuver that he wants to show me, the Carrier Break. Basically, it's a sideways skid through the air designed to slow the jet from it's cruising speed of 400 knots to it's landing speed of 130 knots, as it comes in to land on an aircraft carrier at sea. We'll be landing at the airfield though, so he has to ask the tower for permission...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Sherman Tower, Blue Angel 7. 15 miles to the west, VFR for the initial request to carrier.


ATC:

Blue Angel 7, Sherman Tower. Runway 7 left, Carrier Break and early descent within 5 are approved.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Carrier Break entered, descent within 5 is approved for 7 left. Blue Angel 7.


Dusty Weis:

I do everything I can to steel my frazzled nerves and flip flopping stomach for one more high G maneuver. Except this time instead of an ocean more than 10,000 feet below us, I'm looking straight down at the busy runway just 1,000 feet below...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Blue Angel 7 breaking.


ATC:

Blue Angel 7, Roger.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Coming left, here we go.


Dusty Weis:

We wheel around just a few hundred feet above the trees, swamps, and suburban homes west of Pensacola...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

There's 4 Gs!


Dusty Weis:

And line up for our landing...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

We're rolling out. Nice work.


Dusty Weis:

Oh my God!


ATC:

Blue Angel 7, change to runway 7 right. Check wheels down, runway 7 right. 1030 at niner cleared to land.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Clear to land, 7 right. I got three down and locked for Blue Angel 7. And, we'll be on deck here very shortly. No big deal, pulled 7 Gs today.


Dusty Weis:

Easy peasy.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Went about 500 knots at one point, no big deal.


Dusty Weis:

I'm pretty sure I just put on 5 years.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Hey.


Dusty Weis:

Five years of living right there. Oh my God.


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Hey, Navy will give you a couple of gray hairs, but I'll tell you the biggest lie, that Maverick movie. Tom Cruise been in the Navy 30 years, doesn't have a gray hair on his head.


Dusty Weis:

(laughs).


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

(alarm). It'll be a little bump here as we touch down. But just like that, we're back on solid ground.


Dusty Weis:

We taxied back to that line of Blue Angels fighter jets. Dale guides us into park. Griffin pops the cockpit canopy and I breathe in that warm Florida air. Even though I am exhausted and still a little ill, I am already sad that this experience is over. Griffin slides out of his seat and shakes my hand...


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Hey.


Dusty Weis:

Whoo!


LCDR Griffin Stangel:

Awesome job.


Dusty Weis:

Dale gets me unhooked from the restraints, and I climb down on shaky legs to the tarmac. There I'm reunited with MC1 Cody Deccio, whom we met when we embedded with the Blue Angels at the Chicago Air and Water Show, and he leads me back to the office complex where I flop down on the couch and nurse myself back into shape with several cold glasses of water.


As I'm recovering, I'm visited by MCC Michael Christopher Russell, one of Blue Angels Public Affairs Chiefs who coordinates the Public Affairs Team. And he reminds me just how rare the air is that I've been breathing today...


MCC Michael Russell:

You know, we've had country bands since I've been here. We've had a variety of different officials, military reps. We've had social media influencers. It's a great way for their fans who may not normally watch anything to do with the Navy, to get a peek into what an F/A-18 is.


Dusty Weis:

But then, you get them into the back seat of that thing and really put them through their paces. I mean, that's just the kind of thing that has to be experienced to be believed, almost.


MCC Michael Russell:

Yes sir.


Dusty Weis:

I feel like. It was certainly ... I'd even go so far as to say life changing for me today. I don't think that is any kind of exaggeration. What do people take away from an experience like that?


MCC Michael Russell:

I remember the first time ... I know this is a personal story, but I remember the first time I flew on an airplane. How, when I was up above the world looking down, how small it made my problems feel. To see how vast it is. And an F/A-18 is so different than a commercial airliner, but I think that it's such an exhilarating experience. The people that are fortunate enough to go in the back seat, they're going to share that with their family and their friends.


Definitely like you said, it's going to touch them to where they're never going to forget it. It's definitely a unique thing that not very many people get to do.


Dusty Weis:

Yes, certainly. Last question then, I guess, because I know that you've got to bounce here. What do you absolutely love about your job?


MCC Michael Russell:

Well, most people on the team they're constantly working on the maintenance of the jets. My favorite part of my job is, we get to tell the story of the people behind the scenes. It's not always just about the pilot of one of those jets. The people that are turning the wrenches underneath that jet are just as important as the chain of command. My favorite part about being on the Blue Angels Public Affairs Office is, we get to put that spotlight, move it around to the whole team. So, I just enjoy being able to highlight the hard work of the sailors and the marines of this team.


Dusty Weis:

And let's not forget the people that tell the stories of people that support the squadron too.


MCC Michael Russell:

Yes sir.


Dusty Weis:

They're a part of that process too.


MCC Michael Russell:

That's true.


Dusty Weis:

But, I think it's overlooked a whole lot.


MCC Michael Russell:

Yes sir.


Dusty Weis:

That's why we wanted to do this podcast. So, I thank you guys so much from the bottom of my heart, for having me for this experience. It's just been a great day. A great couple of days actually spent with you guys. And, I look forward to telling the story of the story tellers I guess, as it were for this one.


MCC Michael Russell:

Well, it's nice having you here and we're glad to be here.


Dusty Weis:

Thank you, Chief Russell.


MCC Michael Russell:

All right, sir.


Dusty Weis:

Appreciate you.


MCC Michael Russell:

Thank you.


Dusty Weis:

To tell the story of the world's most elite flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels Public Affairs Team has to be elite in their own right. A small team with a big mission. These men and women work grueling hours and handle innumerable duties. From onsite photography and social media to print publications and even hand calligraphy on commemorative posters.


The list of other duties as assigned seems unlimited for this team. But they're also called upon to endure the same brutal in-flight working conditions that the pilots themselves endure. Tip top physical conditioning and the ability to maintain mental acuity and discipline under exhausting circumstances.


It all adds up to public relations and marketing operation that most of us in this field would be hard pressed to handle. I'll admit, I barely hung on to any semblance of composure and I sure wasn't doing my finest professional work in that jet. So what did we learn? That an experience is the most powerful media relations practice. That in strategic communications, perfect execution may be impossible, but with discipline and practice, excellence is attainable, even under the most intense circumstances.


And of course, that extremes forge unbreakable, unflappable communicators. And that those life experiences are of incalculable value. Having had this first hand experience, I have a new respect for the elite level at which these men and women perform, and a new appreciation for the power that strategic communications has to change lives. And, I hope you do too.


Thank you. Okay. I have so many of them from the Blue Angels team. MCC Paul Archer coordinated, curated, answered dumb questions and made sure that I got the full Blue Angels experience. An all around cool dude and so much fun to work with.


Lieutenant Commander Griffin Stangel, Blue Angels #7 Pilot and narrator. My host for the ride along experience, and just one of the nicest, most fun human beings I've had the pleasure of meeting in a while. And, a great ambassador for aviation. He's going to be moving into the regular Blue Angels lineup for the 2023 season ahead. So if you go to a show next year, you will get to see him in action.


Lieutenant Chelsea Dietlinde, Public Affairs Officer and leader of that team, who tolerated my badgering and gave us the green light to tell the story of the Blue Angels story tellers.

AD2 Cam Tuzon, #7 Crew Chief, and AE 2 Dale Pascua who drilled me on G strain exercises, prepped me for the flight, and made sure I survived it. Appreciate that part.

MCC Michael Russell, MC2 Cody Hendrix, MC1 Cody Deccio, and MC1 Bobby Baldock. Members of the Public Affairs team whom we followed, taped, and bothered with questions in Chicago. You welcomed us into the Blue Angels family and we are so grateful for your trust and your candor.


Thank you to everyone from the Blue Angels team for this incredible experience. Big thanks as well to Jim Schlater, Paul Guse, and Dave Oates for helping put me in touch with the right people to get this idea off the ground. And tons of love to Ty Christian and Brian Koenig of the midwest based metal act, Lords of the Trident, who performed The Danger Zone cover song for this episode. They did such a good job that I'm going to play the song in its entirety after the credits roll here.


Bruckheimer went to the well three times with Danger Zone in the Top Gun movie. So I figure you won't mind hearing it one more time. Lords of the Trident are touring this fall, they put on an awesome live show. Lordsofthetrident.com for more information on that. Additional music are The Revolution, Tiger Gang, and Doctor Delight.


The Lead Balloon podcast is produced by PodCamp Media, where we provide branded podcast production services for businesses. Our podcast studios are located in the heart of beautiful downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin but we work with clients all over North America. Podcampmedia.com. Find PodCamp Media on social too. A video version of this whole saga is up on our YouTube page if you want to see how I got thrown around in the cockpit of that F/A-18. The link is in the episode description, and why don't you sign up for our enewsletter while you're in there.


I've got to say, as season finales go I don't know if we'll ever top this one but we have a whole back catalog of intense tales from the world of PR and marketing. Subscribe to Lead Balloon in your favorite podcast app and check those out. We'll be back with new episodes in 2023, probably a few bonus clips before then. And if you've got a PR and marketing story that we should be telling on this show, please reach out.


But until the next time folks, thanks for listening and thanks for coming on this adventure. I am Dusty Weis.