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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Airway Heights police officer takes in beautiful views, G-forces during Thunderbirds Hometown Hero flight

“He’s taking off, he’s taking off,” Patrick Carbaugh’s two young sons shouted.

Carbaugh, a 37-year-old former U.S. Marine and current Airway Heights Police officer, was aboard a U.S. Air Force Thunderbird fighter jet Friday that sped down a Fairchild Air Force Base runway and then shot into the sky like a rocket before disappearing in the clouds.

Maj. Jake Impellizzeri, who piloted the two-man flight, said afterward the F-16 Fighting Falcon climbed to 22,000 feet in about 15 seconds.

“Taking off was probably the biggest shock to me,” Carbaugh said.

The Thunderbirds, an air demonstration squadron, nominated Carbaugh for its Hometown Hero flight ahead of Skyfest this weekend. The nomination meant Carbaugh was able to hop into a green flight suit, slap on a helmet and join Impellizzeri in the sky for jet maneuvers and incredible views.

Impellizzeri said the Thunderbirds honor those who serve something greater than themselves.

“And Patrick, that’s what you do every day,” Impellizzeri said.

Carbaugh and Impellizzeri pulled 9 Gs, or nine times the force of gravity, during the flight.

“It feels like you have an elephant on your chest and you’re trying to breathe against an elephant,” Impellizzeri said.

The experience often leads to fainting but Carbaugh said he was able to stay conscious the entire flight. He admitted, however, the takeoff got “a little spotty.”

“I just think it’s a really special opportunity to get to do this and I wish more people got to do it,” Carbaugh said.

Carbaugh and Impellizzeri flew to the Colville area, performing rolls, flying upside down and dropping into river canyons . Carbaugh took control of the jet at times, too.

“It was beautiful,” Carbaugh said.

After about an hour in the air, the two returned to Fairchild.

“Uncle Patrick, do you feel sick?” Carbaugh’s nephew asked as his uncle exited the jet.

“There was definitely a moment,” he responded.

One of Carbaugh’s sons, 9-year-old Landon, said he felt like he was going to go “cuckoo” while waiting for his father to land.

“I wish I was up there with him,” he said.

Carbaugh’s father, also Patrick Carbaugh, said the flight was an amazing opportunity and a “gift of God” after the tough childhood Carbaugh experienced. He said the hometown-hero nomination was an affirmation of what hard work and devotion can do.

The younger Carbaugh said he grew up in Airway Heights in a “broken home” and it inspired Carbaugh, a youth engagement specialist at the Airway Heights Police Department, to start a summer program for at-risk youth called Police Adventure League.

He said he was able to obtain a grant from the state to start the program. He’s working with the Cheney School District to select about 12 students to take on a six-week program that will include whitewater rafting, rock climbing and other activities with the goal of teaching students principles for their lives.

Peak 7 Adventures, Wild Walls climbing gym and other local agencies are partnering with the program, Carbaugh said.

“I look forward to just getting to work with the kids and take them on experiences they may not have gotten to do without us,” he said.