F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --
A local Wyomingite, who also happens to be a country music singer-songwriter and former saddle-bronco rider received a celebrity flight with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds during Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyo., July 24.
Chancey Williams flew with Maj. Scott Petz, Thunderbirds #8 pilot, during a one-hour flight over Cheyenne and the surrounding area.
“I hope he has an awesome time,” said Capt. Ryan Bodenheimer, Thunderbirds #2 pilot. “It might be similar to the feel of a rodeo, he might be hoping that it’s over in eight seconds. Hopefully he is able to handle the Gs (gravitational forces), which I think he can. We’re going to give him the ride of his life for sure, maybe one that even competes with a bronco ride.”
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.
Williams is no stranger to CFD, having competed as a bronco rider in years past and while his rodeo days are over, he keeps busy as a country singer in his musical group, ‘Chancey Williams and The Young Brothers Band,’ traveling across the country performing for fans.
I had a chance to sit and talk with Williams before and after his flight to see what was going through his head as he was suiting up to get into one of the fastest, most threatening aircraft in the U.S. military’s arsenal. Let’s see what he had to say about his experience.
Q: So Chancey, how did you feel when you found out you were going to fly with the Thunderbirds?
A: “It was unbelievable! I have always wanted to do it, I was actually sitting at the airport in South Dakota getting ready to fly to Nashville for a concert when Maj. Patz called me and asked if I would like to fly with the Thunderbirds and I said yes. I was really glad it worked out on a day our band wasn’t playing and even if it was I would have canceled the show if I would have had to make it work.”
Q: Did you do anything to prepare for the flight?
A: “The Thunderbirds sent me some stuff to do. For the last week I’ve been drinking a lot of water because they said it would help me not pass out when well hydrated. The morning of the flight I was not to eat anything greasy or spicy, just in case.”
Before they took off down the runway of the Wyoming National Guard base, the 34-year-old Williams was briefed on the equipment being used, various safety devices and how to not pass out during the flight.
Q: How was it? Anything like riding a bronco?
A: “Mentally it was comparable because riding a bucking horse, back when I used to do it took 100 percent effort to ride them because you never know what’s going to happen. That’s kind of the mentality I went into today with, just bear down and try as hard as I can not to pass out or get sick. It takes your entire body firing at the same time so you don’t make that happen. The adrenaline rush was similar to riding bucking horses.”
Q: How would you describe it to someone that might never get the chance to fly in one of these jets?
A: “I feel like I just got done running a marathon. My body is exhausted just from sitting in that extra seat. The fastest, wildest roller coaster multiplied by a thousand. Literally just as fast as you can go, shooting straight up in the air and flying upside down. Most people have been on a regular commercial air plane, but flying upside down is mind blowing, it was pretty intense.”
One of the greatest experiences of his life he added.
During the flight, Petz 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: Is this an experience you can write a song about?
A: “It could be. Yeah, I would definitely have to look into that. I’m glad we got a lot of footage today, maybe we could put some of that in a music video at some point.”
Q: Anything you would like to say to the military members here in Cheyenne or around the world?
A: “I have always considered what I do, playing music, as one of the best jobs ever and today I got to see how that compares to being a Thunderbird. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do if it wasn’t for the military. We appreciate everything the military does in keeping us safe and man, if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t get to play music all the time. In this day in age it’s nice to know even though times are bad in some places around the world, that we are protected by our United States military. Big huge thanks!”
Q: Will you be at the Thunderbirds aerial show on Wednesday?
A: “No, we’ll be in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, playing a concert, but I’ll see them tomorrow when they do their practice. I’ve seen it a few times, I’ve always got to watch it from the ground. It’s cool to sit in the back seat of one and actually experience it.”
Q: Anything else you would like to add Chancey?
A: “I want to thank them [Thunderbirds] for asking me to fly with them. I feel humble they called me when there’s a lot of other people they probably could have called, but I’m fortunate they called me.”