Former GF resident Erickson gets the ride of his life
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This past spring a former resident got the “ride of a lifetime” when he was selected for a Key Influencer flight with the Blue Angels just a few days prior to their Pensacola, Florida Airshow in July.
Scott Erickson was a 1990 graduate of the Granite Falls - Clarkfield High School and served as a paraprofessional for Yellow Medicine East School District in 2003 and 2004. Presently, Erickson teaches math and Aerospace at Milton High School in Florida.
Erickson said that it is his desire to evoke passions for math and science in his students on par with his own, and that was is through these general interest that he acquired an interest in aviation. Connections, who admired his enthusiasm for aeronautics in nearby Naval Air Station (NAS) at Whiting Field, nominated Erickson for the Key Influencer Flight, which is often flown prior to airshows in the interests of bolstering recruiting.
“Living in the area I would see them fly a minimum of twice per year, so fortunately I new what to expect,” said Erickson.
“I really feel for those who didn’t have an idea of the maneuvers going in.”
With his wife, Lori, son Leland, and parents, Earl and Rita Christianson, of Granite Falls in tow, Erickson traveled from his home in Navarre to Forrest Sherman Field at Pensacola NAS where he was briefed for his airborne excursion alongside fellow Key Influencer Flight recipient, Pensacola ABC News Anchor Amber Southard.
Using a toy plane, Erickson and Southard were given examples of the types of gravity defying aerial stunts that they would experience inside of the Boeing F/A-18 while also learning tricks of the trade like the “hic” maneuver, which pilots and their passengers performed, in light of the high intensity G-Forces, to keep from passing out.
“The hic maneuver involved controlled breathing and muscle flexing that starts at the ball of the feet and goes up to the buttocks. If you put them together you can buy yourself eight seconds of consciousness,” Erickson said.
Following the briefing, Erickson adorned a VIP flight suit and headed toward the tarmac where he was secured inside Blue Angel #7 behind pilot, Lieutenant Ryan Chamberlain. The engines roared and increased in decibel severity as they warmed up. After four minutes, the computer systems came to life and aligned, and with a thumbs up, he was taxied to the runway.
The roller coaster ride began immediately, with the first maneuver a 500 ft/sec vertical climb at takeoff. Within seconds, the family recalled that the jet was out of sight, while in the cockpit, Erickson was left with only unadulterated, adrenaline-riddled experience.
During the forty-minute flight, Erickson was treated to aileron rolls, loops and extreme acceleration while reaching a maximum of Mach 1.02 and 7.2 G-forces. This translates to experiencing speeds 1.02 times faster than that of sound and adding the equivalent of some 1,700 pounds of mass––or, in other words, one helluva ride.
“I never did pass out, but was a little out of it,” he said. “At what point, auditorily, I felt like I was in a different place, and was still doing the “hic” maneuverer even after we decelerated.”
Back on the ground, Erickson was left relatively speechless, indicating simply that it was “sensory overload” and beyond words. If anything, the smile on his face went furthest to tell the story. Ear to ear, he couldn’t wipe it away.
“It’s really taken what I’ve taught and made me appreciate what our pilots are able to do with extreme focus while in harms way,” he said. “It was incredible to me. The level of dedication of the pilot to his craft just speaks of excellence. There is no room for error.”
Out of his VIP suit and preparing for a new school year, Erickson received quite a story to relay to his students alongside scientific and mathematical components that give the subjects engaging real-world application.
“I think the main lesson I bring back into the classroom is: why expect anything less than the best that you can do,” he said.
In October of 2013, Erickson received the A. Scott Crossfield Aerospace National Teacher of the Year Award. He is currently working toward accreditation as an Embry-Riddle University Academy Professor, which will permit him to teach Embry-Riddle courses to high school students for college credit.