Every year, teacher Jim Dostal invites members of different branches of the armed forces to come address his political science classes at Jefferson High School so his students can get a better idea of the role of the military in American society.
When one of his guests said he would put Dostal’s name on a list to get a chance to fly with the U.S. Navy’s famous Blue Angels squadron, Dostal didn’t expect anything would come of it.
A few months later and he was heading down the runway at Mankato Regional Airport in the navigator seat of an F/A-18 Super Hornet.
Dostal was invited to fly with the famed flight demonstration squadron June 6, 2012, during the Great Minnesota Air Show as part of the navy’s Blue Angel Key Influencer Program. The program selects individuals from communities around the country who are positive role models for youth to experience a flight on a Blue Angel.
Dostal, who also coaches football at Coe College, is a long-time aviation fan, and the experience of flying in a jet fighter was unlike anything he had ever experienced.
“When they told me we were going to take off and go straight up, I thought it would be like taking off in a jetliner,” he said. “But we took off and then went straight up at a 90 degree angle.”
The experience was both exciting and nerve-wracking, as the cockpit Dostal was sitting in was fully operational, right down to the ejection cord between his legs that would shoot him from the cockpit if pulled.
He wasn’t the only “key influencer” flying that day; former professional football player and Minnesota Vikings broadcaster Pete Bercich also flew that day as part of the same program.
It was a once-in-a-lifetim chance that Dostal said he would never forget.
“There’s nothing else in the world that replicates that situation,” he said.