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NEWS | April 12, 2011

Hometown Hero takes flight with the Thunderbirds

By Christin Navitsky Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

As part of this year's Joint Base Charleston Air Expo 2011, the United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, gave Mount Pleasant native Ed Deas, a ride in the Thunderbirds' F-16 Fighting Falcon aerial demonstration jet, April 8.

Mr. Deas received the award in appreciation for his fund raising efforts for the Ronald McDonald House Charities. In April 2009, Mr. Deas was involved in a car accident in Florida, which left him with a broken neck. The Ronald McDonald House was able to assist the Deas family in their time of need by providing them a place to stay while he was in the hospital.

The mission of the Ronald McDonald House Charities is to create, find and support programs that directly improve the health and well being of children.

After Mr. Deas' recovery, he wanted to give something back so he jumped on his bicycle and rode from St. Augustine, Fla. to San Diego, Calif., with the goal of raising money and creating awareness for the Ronald McDonald House. He raised more than $2,500 during this 75-day cross-country trip.

Barbara Bonds, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House of Charleston said, "Ed's donation will enable us to provide families with 500 nights of lodging at the Ronald McDonald House and that makes a big difference to our families that need help."

Mr. Deas began his Thunderbird experience with a medical check-up by Thunderbird Nine, Capt. Thomas Bowden, the team's flight surgeon, who made sure Mr. Deas was in good physical health and mentally prepared to endure the demands of the flight.

After his medical briefing, Mr. Deas suited up for his flight with the assistance of Tech. Sgt. Amber Alumpe, who briefed Mr. Deas on his flight safety equipment while ensuring it was properly fitted. "Fastening that G-suit on was crazy but important because it forces the blood to my head to make sure I don't black out," said Mr. Deas.

Finally, Capt. Kristin Hubbard, Thunderbird Eight and advance pilot and narrator discussed the flight and explained what the F-16 would do once they were airborne. "This is your flight and we will do the maneuvers you want and feel comfortable trying, including pushing G-force limits," Captain Hubbard told Mr. Deas.

Out on the flight line, Mr. Deas climbed into the cockpit saying, "I don't think the magnitude of what I'm about to do has set in yet. I don't think it will until we take off." And with those parting words the canopy closed and off he went.

During the one hour flight, Captain Hubbard and Mr. Deas reached more than nine Gs and speeds topping 600 mph.

"This experience was awesome; we went to Savannah in under 10 minutes," Mr. Deas said. "During the nine Gs, it was really hard to breath with all the pressure on my chest."

The flight included combat and vertical maneuvers, a bomb-drop reenactment as well as several loops and rolls. "This was an awesome experience, something I will never forget," said Mr. Deas.

The 2011 Joint Base Charleston Air Expo attracted more than 80,000 people to witness aerial military and civilian acts.