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Local celebrity enjoys ‘unbelievable’ ride

17th Public Affairs Detachment

Published: 04:48PM July 26th, 2012
Local celebrity enjoys ‘unbelievable’ ride

Joe Kubistek

“It just feels like you’re hanging, and almost like you’re floating,” Nellie Veitenheimer said, after her ride with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds July 19 during the 2012 JBLM Air Expo. Veitenheimer, of Tacoma, was recently featured on “The Glee Project.”

Nellie Veitenheimer had a view of the Northwest horizon last week that few have ever seen: from upside down. Veitenheimer sat in the cockpit of an F-16 piloted by a Thunderbird, looking out at the mountains and clouds. Hanging upside down, the performer on Season 2 of “The Glee Project” felt weightless.

“It just feels like you’re hanging, and almost like you’re floating,” Veitenheimer, of Tacoma, said.

Her entire trip involved nearly reaching the speed of sound and feeling almost 6.9 G’s, a pressure roughly equivalent to seven times Veitenheimer’s body weight.

“It was unbelievable,” Veitenheimer said. “It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime sort of opportunity, and just like the physical feelings (are) something you never, ever get. The view was great; it was the best.”

Veitenheimer’s trip was part of the Thunderbirds’ outreach to tell their story. Captain Michel Fisher, her pilot, said the Thunderbirds usually invite either a local celebrity or media figure to go up in a plane before the team’s main show. Some of these guests have to fight a little motion sickness, but Fisher said Veitenheimer did well.

“It’s kind of like a roller coaster except to the 10th degree, but nothing really prepares you for it,” Fisher said. “You can hydrate — you can drink lots of water — you can have a good meal, get lots of rest, but until you get out there and experience it its something you’re body’s never done before.”

Despite the strain on the body and a little disorientation when she was back on the ground, Veitenheimer said she loved it. “It was super fun, I will definitely remember this forever,” Veitenheimer said.