Flying on the Red Wings team plane, Red Bird, for road trips during the season doesn’t bother defenseman Danny DeKeyser. Flying in an F/A-18 Hornet, well, that’s a different story.
On Tuesday, DeKeyser rode along with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Twp., Mich., experiencing first-hand several of the aerial maneuvers reserved for the best fighter pilots in the world.
And it was enough to make even an experienced traveler like DeKeyser a little queasy.
“Normally I’m a pretty good flyer and I don’t get too worried about flying,” he said. “Even with this, I wasn’t too worried about it, but I didn’t know what to expect. It was pretty crazy.”
DeKeyser’s flight featured the trademark Blue Angels vertical ascent into the sky moments after takeoff, along with plenty of barrel-rolls and dipsy-doos.
“I’m still feeling a little woozy right now,” DeKeyser said after exiting the plane. “It’s something different for sure. I’ve never experienced anything like that.”
Prior to taking flight, DeKeyser took part in a briefing to master the proper breathing techniques and learn more about the F/A-18 Hornet, which is capable of traveling at speeds exceeding 1,400 miles per hour.
Following the briefing, DeKeyser received a tour of Selfridge, with stops at several hangers to view several different aircrafts and meet their crews. The Red Wings defenseman had an opportunity to visit the robotics teams and test some of the newest technology.
“I’ve loved the Red Wings since I was a little kid,” said David VanCoillie, a logistics management specialist in the U.S. Army. “Having any representative come by is exciting, especially Danny who I think is a top-notch talent in the entire league. It was a real treat to hear that he was coming.”
Despite light rain showers throughout the afternoon, DeKeyser’s 40-minute flight went off as planned and the Red Wings blueliner wrapped up the afternoon by signing several autographs and posing for photos with the servicemen in attendance.
“You don’t get an opportunity to do something like this too often,” said DeKeyser of the Blue Angels, which are in town for the Selfridge Open House and Air Show on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 6-7. “I realize what these guys do and the stuff they train for is pretty crazy. It’s a new respect.”