EL CENTRO, Calif., February 19, 2014 – On Monday, March 3, New England Patriots' Tight End Michael Hoomanawanui and St. Louis Rams' Punter Johnny Hekker will take to the skies as guest riders with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. Hoomanawanui and Hekker were nominated for these prestigious flights by the Blue Angels crew of the Navy due to their leadership, positivity, and impact in their respective communities.
Hoomanawanui said that it will be a childhood dream come true to fly in a jet, especially with the Blue Angels, since he grew up attending local air shows with his father and close friends in Illinois. Michael added, "I've been to a lot of places, met a lot of people, and seen a lot of things, but flying in a jet may just top them all. I am honored to have this opportunity."
Another connection is that Lieutenant Ryan Chamberlain, the Blue Angels Narrator and VIP Pilot, is also a native of Bloomington, Illinois, and a Central Catholic High School graduate like Hoomanawanui and will be piloting his celebrity flight.
Pro Bowl punter, Johnny Hekker, has his own weekly television show in St. Louis where he accepts challenges and performs unusual tasks. After negotiations with the Navy Public Affairs office, his punting trainer, Mike McCabe of One On One Kicking, 'dared' Johnny to fly with the Blue Angels. He obliged and said that "this will be the toughest challenge to-date and I look forward to this once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Katy Macdonald of the Blue Angels stated that she is excited to have the two NFL stars out to their winter base in El Centro for their memorable flights with the Nation's best. Macdonald added, "It is about changing lives, following your dreams, and making an impact on the youth of this country and that is what Michael and Johnny have continued to do throughout their young professional careers."
Blue Angel pilots have been known to fly as close as 18 inches apart, as high as 15,000 feet and as low as 50 feet from the ground during demonstrations. Performances can reach speeds as fast as 700 mph. The Blue Angels showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community involvement.