A number of years ago, I couldn't be persuaded to ride "Superman: Ride of Steel," at Six Flags America. I simply hate that feeling I get in my stomach (with a smile on my face) when riding over the crest of the first hill of a roller coaster. When I was given the chance to take a media ride with pilot Charles Lynch and the Yak Attack Demo Team, I was faced with another chance of placing my life in someone else's hands, and photo editor Chuck Weiss wanted me to shoot video and capture photos. "A Russian plane?" I asked. "Don't they usually crash at air shows?!" Chuck simply flashed that Cheshire-cat grin, which made me think that I shouldn't trust the words about to come out of his mouth: "Russian aircraft are probably the safest ones out there. And these planes are really well-built."
After calling a number of people to instruct them to look for my camera in the Atlantic Ocean - I assured them that they'd find pictures of me going down with the plane - I finally met with Mr. Lynch at Ocean City Municipal Airport. He buckled me into a manually inflating life preserver and a parachute. My attention deficit kicked in as he talked about how to open the canopy, throw my headset out, unlatch the buckle (being sure not to unlatch the parachute buckle) ... all I could think about was how many seconds it would take to hit the ground at terminal velocity. Shaking that off, I got strapped in, holding a Sony camcorder and my trusty Lumix hybrid camera, which I keep in the event of an emergency.
Once airborne and after several in-flight checks, Mr. Lynch couldn't hear me give the OK to start his first maneuver, which involved a barrel roll. So I gave thumbs up, and realized that my Sony's memory buffer had frozen, making it useless. Flipping the Lumix over to its camcorder mode, I was ready to capture some in-air acrobatics over the Ocean City area. I don't even remember what happened, except seeing blue sky and sun in the viewfinder, becoming weightless for a moment, and then watching us corkscrew through the air.
I was giddy as a school boy when he asked if I wanted to try a "hammer head," in which the plane climbs vertically, peaks to a stop, and pitches over. Or something like that. I was too busy screaming with glee to know what was going on. All I know was that the pilot did his job, and I did mine. And we both walked away from the aircraft after returning on the ground, which made it a good flight.
See a portfolio of images by Sun photographers at baltimoresun.com/viewfinder