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    Sage Kimzey trades bulls for an F-16

    Sage Kimzey trades bulls for an F-16

    Photo By Senior Airman Brandon Valle | The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over the Wyoming Air National Guard Base,...... read more read more



    Story by Senior Airman Brandon Valle 

    90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

    The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds hosted a celebrity flight for Sage Kimzey, championship bull rider, July 25, during Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne., Wyo.

    Kimzey flew with Maj. Kevin Walsh, U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds operations officer, on Thunderbird #7, during a one-hour flight over Cheyenne and the surrounding area.

    Kimzey is a Strong City, Oklahoma, native who has been riding bulls professionally since 2014 and is the only rider in history to win world titles in both his rookie and sophomore seasons. He also took home the championship in the 2014 Championship Bull Riders Circuit, which hosts the finals here during Cheyenne Frontier Days.

    Welsh hails from Long Island, New York, and has been flying jets since 2003. This is his first season flying with the Thunderbirds.

    The Thunderbirds perform about 40 shows each year across the U.S., but Cheyenne will always be special since it was the site of their first public performance in 1953. The city also holds the record for the longest streak of Thunderbirds air shows totaling 59, which was only broken in 2013 due to budget cuts.

    Q: What was your reaction when you were told you would be flying in an F-16 with the Thunderbirds?

    A: “Anytime you get a chance to have an experience like this it really is an experience of a lifetime. I’m really excited for it. Not many people get to experience something like that. I watched the Thunderbirds here in 2001 when I was 7 years old. I instantly fell in love with it. To get to do it is just a dream come true.”

    Before they took off down the runway of the Wyoming National Guard base, the 21-year-old Kimzey was briefed on the equipment being used, various safety devices and how to not pass out during the flight.

    Preparation plays an important role in making sure both the pilot and the passenger are safe during the flight.

    Q: What sort of preparation did you get before the flight?

    A: “They taught me a breathing technique, which was pretty hard to get down. In the case of an ejection they taught me how to do all that. They even taught me to maneuver through powerlines. Hopefully that won’t be the case. It was a long process to figure out how to use all the gear. It’s crazy what these guys have to go through every time they fly and the sheer power of the planes.”

    Q: What were the thoughts going through your head as the jet roared to life and shot down the runway?

    A: “I had no clue what to expect with the takeoff. That was one of the most intense feelings I’ve ever had.”

    Q: Was this experience anything like riding a bull?

    A: “There really is no comparison when you talk about an F-16 compared to a bull. They are two different forms of power. They are both wild, but the sheer power of that F-16 is just unmatched from anything that I have ever been a part of.”

    During the flight, Walsh performed a number of maneuvers – including a loop, barrel roll, four-point roll, eight-point roll, knife edge and low altitude maneuvering – which are also performed during their air shows.

    Q: How did you feel during all the maneuvers?

    A: “I thought I was going to be all tough about it, but it just didn’t happen. There was a couple times where I needed to say ‘hold on, I need a breather.’ I did lose it a little right at the end of the flight, but being up there was really cool.”

    Q: How would you describe the experience to someone that might never get the chance to fly in one of these jets?

    A: “I was a little nervous because it was just so foreign to me. I’ve never done anything like that. The feeling that you get up there is just indescribable. You really just can’t understand what it’s like until you’ve been in one.”

    Q: Is there anything you would like to say to the Thunderbirds team?

    A: “I have the utmost respect for the guys who do this every day. The stuff they do is second to none and is top notch in their field. It’s crazy the things they do. I won’t be trading in my bulls any day soon.”

    After getting a first-hand experience of life as an Air Force pilot, Kimzey moved on to compete in the Championship Bull Riding Finals at Cheyenne Frontier Days. For more Thunderbirds action, don’t miss the air show at Laramie County Community College July 27, at 9:30 a.m.



    Date Taken: 07.25.2016
    Date Posted: 07.26.2016 13:00
    Story ID: 205096
    Location: CHEYENNE, WY, US 

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