Echo reporter Kevin Clark joined the Blades aerobatic display team ahead of Sunderland International Airshow:
“They say you should face your fears, but sliding into the cockpit of Blade 4, I can’t help wondering if they’re wrong.
Team leader Andy Evans has already talked us through what to do in the case of a mid-air emergency and the words ‘at this point, you’ll probably be thrown clear of the aircraft’ have proved less reassuring than one might expect.
As pilot Gerald Cooper straps me in, it’s a snug fit. The Extra is an aerobatic training aircraft, so I’m sat in front, with a set of my own controls, slaved to Gerald’s.
Blades One and Two take off side by side, while we line up next to Blade Three, with City Council Deputy Leader Coun Michael Mordey in front of pilot Kirsty Murphy.
We accelerate to catch up with Blades One and Two, then Kirsty and Michael move off to the left and we tuck ourselves in slightly below and back from the tail of Blade One.
After a few banks and turns, Gerald’s voice comes over the headset, asking if I’m ready for a loop and seconds later the world is literally turn upside down, as all four aircraft manoeuvre as one, still seemingly within touching distance.
Another loop, then we and Blade There peel off and it’s time to really put the Extra EA-300 through its paces.
Gerald throws the plane though an extraordinary range of moves, barrel rolls, tumbles, turns and vertical climbs and drives and it’s utterly, utterly exhilarating.
Far too soon, it’s time to join back up with Blades One and Two and head back to Earth. It has been amazing.”