Thunderbirds rip through Wyoming skies

Maj. Tyler Ellison, U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds #7 pilot, and Wes Welker, Denver Broncos wide receiver, begin their final preparations for take-off July 20 during a media flight out of the Wyoming Air National Guard Base, Cheyenne, Wyo. Crews perform routine maintenance on the rest of the aircrafts, preparing them for an upcoming air show. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle)

Maj. Tyler Ellison, U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds #7 pilot, and Wes Welker, Denver Broncos wide receiver, begin their final preparations for take-off July 20 during a media flight out of the Wyoming Air National Guard Base, Cheyenne, Wyo. Crews perform routine maintenance on the rest of the aircrafts, preparing them for an upcoming air show. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle)

Wes Welker, Denver Broncos wide receiver, puts on a flight helm and mask July 20, 2014, before his flight with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. Welker was one of two participants given the opportunity to ride in the passenger seat as a Thunderbirds pilot performed aerial maneuvers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle)

Wes Welker, Denver Broncos wide receiver, puts on a flight helm and mask July 20, 2014, before his flight with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. Welker was one of two participants given the opportunity to ride in the passenger seat as a Thunderbirds pilot performed aerial maneuvers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle)

Two helmets sit on the side of a U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds F-16 July 20 as the aircraft is prepared for a media flight. The Thunderbirds provided two media flights to help showcase their skills and bring awareness of the daily activities they perform. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle)

Two helmets sit on the side of a U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds F-16 July 20 as the aircraft is prepared for a media flight. The Thunderbirds provided two media flights to help showcase their skills and bring awareness of the daily activities they perform. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle)

Staff Sgt. Mark Mira, U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds #8 dedicated crew chiefs, helps Cory Sullivan, Root Sports analyst and former Colorado Rockies Outfielder, get suited up for an acrobatic flight in a Thunderbirds F-16 July 21, 2014, at the Wyoming Air National Guard base in Cheyenne, Wyo. During the flight, Maj. Mike Fisher, Thunderbirds #8 advance pilot and narrator, took Sullivan for a ride that included maneuvers including the clover loop, barrel roll, inverted flat pass, vertical rolls and an 8.3 g turn. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Wiese)

Staff Sgt. Mark Mira, U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds #8 dedicated crew chiefs, helps Cory Sullivan, Root Sports analyst and former Colorado Rockies Outfielder, get suited up for an acrobatic flight in a Thunderbirds F-16 July 21, 2014, at the Wyoming Air National Guard base in Cheyenne, Wyo. During the flight, Maj. Mike Fisher, Thunderbirds #8 advance pilot and narrator, took Sullivan for a ride that included maneuvers including the clover loop, barrel roll, inverted flat pass, vertical rolls and an 8.3 g turn. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Wiese)

Maj. Mike Fisher, U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds #8 advance pilot and narrator, takes off in his Thunderbirds F-16 carrying Cory Sullivan, Root Sports analyst and former Colorado Rockies Outfielder, July 21, 2014, at the Wyoming Air National Guard base in Cheyenne, Wyo. Sullivan described the flight as intense, and said he is impressed the pilots can control the jet while exposed to strong g-forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Wiese)

Maj. Mike Fisher, U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds #8 advance pilot and narrator, takes off in his Thunderbirds F-16 carrying Cory Sullivan, Root Sports analyst and former Colorado Rockies Outfielder, July 21, 2014, at the Wyoming Air National Guard base in Cheyenne, Wyo. Sullivan described the flight as intense, and said he is impressed the pilots can control the jet while exposed to strong g-forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Wiese)

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds F-16s, used in the air demonstrations, sit on the tarmac at the Wyoming Air National Guard base in Cheyenne, Wyo., July 21, 2014, while Thunderbirds maintainers ensure they are in their best shape. The Thunderbirds have visited and performed at an air show during Cheyenne Frontier Days every year in their 61-year history except for 2013 due to government sequestration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Wiese)

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds F-16s, used in the air demonstrations, sit on the tarmac at the Wyoming Air National Guard base in Cheyenne, Wyo., July 21, 2014, while Thunderbirds maintainers ensure they are in their best shape. The Thunderbirds have visited and performed at an air show during Cheyenne Frontier Days every year in their 61-year history except for 2013 due to government sequestration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Wiese)

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are an aerial demonstration squadron that performs precision aerial maneuvers that demonstrate the capabilities of the Air Force's high performance aircrafts to people throughout the world.. The three main objectives of the Thunderbirds mission are recruitment of new Airmen, providing a positive representation of the Air Force and increasing retention of current Airmen.

The Thunderbirds gave two sports figures the opportunity for a ride of a lifetime.

Wes Welker, Denver Broncos wide receiver flew July 20 with Maj. Tyler Ellison, operations officer, and Cory Sullivan, Root Sports analyst and former Colorado Rockies outfielder flew July 21 with Maj. Michael Fisher, advanced pilot and narrator, witnessed the capabilities of the Thunderbirds from the best seat in the house-the cockpit.

The pilots performed a number of maneuvers including: loop, barrel roll, four-point roll, eight-point roll, knife edge and low-altitude maneuvering, which will also be performed during their air show July 23 at Laramie County Community College.

Before they were launched down the runway of the Wyoming National Guard base, the Thunderbirds celebrities were briefed on the equipment they would be using, safety devices and how not to pass out.

"It's like a roller coaster on steroids. We have slow, fast and faster and there's no brake," said Maj. Michael Carletti, Thunderbirds flight surgeon. "The most important piece is breathing."

During Welker and Sullivan's initial briefings before their flights, they were taught different techniques to handle the pull of the jet. With breathing being one of the main focus points, muscle tightening and flight equipment were also explained.

The importance of pushing forward, or "puke and rally," after being sick was also discussed.

With the knowledge from the mentorship of the Thunderbirds crew, Welker managed to make it through the flight.

"It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed that experience," Welker said. "I don't know if I'll be doing it again anytime soon, but I'm glad I did it and I definitely enjoyed it."

Though Welker said he enjoyed the honor of flying, he still had to push the envelope to keep up.

"I felt fine through all of it," Welker said. "Trust me, there were times that I wanted to pull the bag out but I kept strong and I was able to get through."

The day after Welker took flight, it was time for Sullivan to do the same.

"I can't even begin to describe the feelings up there," Sullivan said. "It was intense. When we did the inverted pass, it was like you're hanging off the Earth."

Sullivan said he was impressed the Thunderbirds pilots can control the jets while under such physical strain.

"It was enough just trying to keep my eyes open," he added.

Training is absolutely integral to making sure people have a successful flight, Fisher said.

"They had everything together," Welker said. "The whole breathing tip was huge, using oxygen and getting air definitely helped me."

Without the guidance of the Thunderbirds crew, handling the amount of force created during their flights would be challenging.

"This is such a foreign experience to people. Without training there's no way they'd be able to know how to handle it," Fisher said.

Along with training, a good crew is always essential to a good flight, Fisher said.

"None of that would have been possible if it wasn't for every single one of the men and women in the blue suits who worked behind the scenes to make sure we had a safe sortie," said Fisher.

With the combined effort of the whole Thunderbirds crew, they preform aerial demonstrations all across the nation and were able to give two gentlemen front row seats.

"I definitely enjoyed it and enjoyed my time here and I want to thank the thunderbirds and the whole Thunderbirds crew for giving me this opportunity and I definitely cherish it," Welker said.