Sept. 20, 2011
The Air Force gymnastics coaches recently received a unique opportunity to take glider flights over the Academy grounds with cadet instructors from the 94th Flying Training Squadron. Head coaches Kip Simons (men's gymnastics) and Doug Day (women's gymnastics), as well as men's assistant coach Jeff Robinson, took to the skies in late August.
"Who needs coffee in the morning when you're pulling 4Gs?" Simons said. "It was like a roller coaster on steroids."
Three cadet instructor pilots guided the coaches through this adventure. Simons flew with junior Matt Cosmo, while Day went up with junior Conner Deebel and Robinson had senior Chad Hennig as his cadet pilot. The cadets conducted a basic pre-flight briefing with their respective coaches and took them to the hangar for a hands-on orientation, before heading out to the flight line.
Cosmo explained the pre-flight briefing that happens in the Midfield Building before every flight to get both crew members on the same page about what will happen and who will be doing what. "Our briefings with the coaches involved whether they were fit to fly, explanation of the ground procedures, explanation of anything they might have to do during the flight, the maneuvers we expect to accomplish, and where we're going in the air."
Although the coaches' briefings were more informal, as it wasn't an actual training mission, the cadet instructors then took the coaches into the hangar. "We give them an overview of the controls and what they will head and experience in the flight, so nothing hopefully comes as a complete surprise in the air," Deebel said.
"We got them oriented with the front seat," Cosmo added. "We showed them what everything did, what and what not to touch, and gave them a general tour of our fleet. On the line, it was all last minute discussion about the maneuvers and finally strapping them in, reminding them what they could do in the front, and accomplishing the sortie."
Once in the air, Deebel explained that every coach should have pulled around 4.5Gs and done some simple aerobatics, such as stalls and wing overs, during their flights, which last around 30 minutes. "They also get a pretty sweet view of the cadet area and mountains along the Front Range," he added.
"It was the ride of my life," Day said. "I am so impressed with the amount of confidence and professionalism that out cadets acquire here at the Academy. I only wish that I was young enough to take advantage of all of the wonderful activities USAFA has to offer a cadet."
"The opportunity for us to get these orientation rides is just another of the great things about working here at USAFA," Robinson commented. "Wow ... what a rush!"
Lumi Garcy and Kyle Georges, assistant coaches for the women's program, took their glider rides in early September. The pair, who are both entering their second seasons with the women's program, went up with cadet instructors Carlos Berreteaga (with Garcy) and Chris Carte (with Georges).
"The glider flight was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had," Georges added. "It was peaceful, yet in an instant it turned into an amazing freelance rollercoaster ride. Seeing how much experience and confidence the cadet had in the air gave me a great sense of price in knowing the caliber of individuals that are being produced by this program here at the Academy. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to experience even just the short flight today. Knowing what I know now, I would have come to the Air Force Academy in an instant."
Simons seconded the statements by Garcy and Georges. "My instructor pilot Matt is a true testament to the quality of young men and women here are USAFA."
Following these excursions above the skies of the Academy, Day said it best. "I truly have the best job in America!"
The gymnastics coaching staff would like to thank Capt Jessica Borrman, flight commander for the 94th Flying Training Squadron, for organizing the excursion. Also, a special thanks to Matt Cosmo and Conner Deebel for providing information for this feature and Sarah Chambers from DenMar Photos for the pictures.