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2016 Miss America Betty Cantrell shoots into the sky in a Thunderbirds jet

2016 Miss America Betty Cantrell soars with Thunderbirds

2016 Miss America Betty Cantrell took a flight in a Thunderbirds jet Thursday just days before the weekend Thunder Over Georgia Air Show at Robins Air Force Base.
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2016 Miss America Betty Cantrell took a flight in a Thunderbirds jet Thursday just days before the weekend Thunder Over Georgia Air Show at Robins Air Force Base.

Nearing speeds of 700 miles per hour and pulling straight up to about 15,000 feet, 2016 Miss America Betty Cantrell soared out of sight in a U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds jet Thursday.

“It was amazing,” Cantrell said after finishing the one-hour flight with Air Force Maj. Kevin Walsh in the No. 7 jet. Her name was etched on the cockpit for the flight. “I got to do a lot of cool tricks.”

Walsh, the operations officer for the demonstration squadron, said he took the jet through “every maneuver in the demonstration that we could possibly do.”

“We pulled six Gs on takeoff,” he said. “We were upside down quite a bit.”

The promotional flight came just days before the weekend Thunder over Georgia Air Show at Robins Air Force Base. Gates open at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Cantrell said she went through a three-hour briefing before the flight, drank probably more water than she’s ever drank in a day and ate very lightly in preparation for the flight.

She also practiced the “G-strain position” for experiencing G-force, which is the force that acts on a body as a result of acceleration.

“You can’t really expect it,” Cantrell said of experiencing G-force. “You really don’t know what it’s going to feel like. It’s a lot of pressure.”

Cantrell said she was thankful for the opportunity.

Walsh was asked beforehand about giving the 2016 Miss America the ride of her life.

“It’s an honor, really, in every way,” Walsh said. “I don’t know how I got this lucky. I’m just as happy about going up today as Betty is.”

Her mom, Tassie Cantrell, and her fiance and manager, Spencer Maxwell, were on hand for the flight.

Her mom said Cantrell jumped at the chance to fly with the Thunderbirds when offered the opportunity.

“No hesitation,” Tassie Cantrell said. “None.”

She said she wouldn’t mind trying the flight herself.

“I don’t know if they do that for the moms of Miss America, but if they do, call me,” she said.

Becky Purser: 478-256-9559, @BecPurser

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