SCREAM if you want to go faster – and scream I did as I was looped, barrel-rolled and hung upside down 3,000ft above the ground.
I’d been given the once-in-a-lifetime chance to fly with The Blades aerobatic display team – one of the most agile and adventurous stars of the Sunderland International Airshow.
After a safety briefing about what to do if the engine stops mid-air, which threw me into a slight panic, I was zipped into an oversized flying suit and had a cumbersome parachute strapped to my back.
Tom Cruise in Top Gun I was not, but with his badges and confidence earned through years of flying experience with the Red Arrows and The Blades, Miles Garland, my pilot for the day, looked every inch the part.
To my surprise, I was seated at the front of the plane, complete with a joystick and some very technical-looking dials.
Fortunately though, I had no hand in this flight – the pilot flies from the back seat.
As the canopy closed above me and we waited for our space on a Newcastle Airport runway, my nerves started to kick in.
But unlike the commercial holiday flights I’m used to, Miles spoke to me the whole way through and it’s rather comforting to be able to speak to the man who has your destiny in his, albeit capable, hands.
As we took to the air, it was an awesome sight to be able to wave to the other Blades passengers, just feet away from me, who were as enthralled as I was with the experience.
After a few minutes of calm flying taking in the picture postcard scenery below, Miles got down to the seriously fun business of mid-air tricks.
He started with some formation loops with his high-flying colleagues. The G force as we looped was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. Not even the thrill of a roller coaster can compare to having three-and-a-half times the force of gravity pinning you to your chair in an balletic feat of aerial display.
Next was hanging upside, or the aieleron roll, which was quite literally a hair-raising experience.
More manoeuvres followed which flipped my fear into oblivion to make way for exhilarating 200-mile-an-hour pure fun.