By JOHN C. COTEY
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 25, 2001
TAMPA -- The Thunderbirds are in town, ready to roar over Raymond James Stadium following the national anthem. As a warmup Wednesday, one of the F-6 jets took Buccaneers safety John Lynch for a fast and furious ride.
Though he couldn't play golf at Wednesday's NFL Players Super Shootout at MacDill just a few football fields away because of a bad shoulder, Lynch took a flight in the F-6 with Gen. Glen Lawson. After switching planes because the first one had engine trouble, Lawson and Lynch had a vertical takeoff, looped and flew into Avon Park and the Military Operation Area, airspace that the Air Force uses for training.
The flight took about 45 minutes, and Lynch's wife, Linda, and son, Jake, watched the takeoff and landing.
On the way back, Lynch got to buzz the golf course. Though he looked as if he had just finished a workout when he got off the plane, he said it was a great time.
"It's good to be on land," Lynch said. "But it was great experience and it was fun. I have new respect for what these guys do and for the machinery we have protecting our country. It's just awesome."
Once in Avon Park, Lynch got to take the controls and maneuver the plane through some exercises.
"The takeoff was vertical; we didn't ease into anything," he said. "You're just trying to get your bearings to see what's happening, and then we looped and got up there, and I get to take control of the plane. I can't believe that I'm doing it. The whole experience is completely unbelievable."
Lynch earned praise from Lawson.
"He did outstanding," Lawson said. "We got him up there and taught him how to do some aileron (wing panel) rolls and some loops. We showed him a bunch of stuff up there and taught him how to fly a little bit."
Upon landing, the other Thunderbird members and some other MacDill personnel were impressed that Lynch and Lawson hit 9.2 Gs, about as fast as the jet can go before the blood rushes from your head and causes you to black out.
"We didn't quite get to nine Gs the first time, and he wanted to roll right in and try it again," Lawson said. "We got to 9.2 that time."
Lynch went through about two hours of briefing before the flight as Staff Sgt. Joe Shelton walked him through his uniform and what to do in an emergency. He also explained to Lynch the proper way to, ummm, surrender your lunch into the proper receptical and dispose of it.
That was one instruction that Lynch did not need to recall.
"I held it down," he said, smiling.