By Jano Tantongco
Prepping for his aerobatic flight last week, Cold Spring Harbor High School student Alex Moynihan sat calmly and confidently as world-renowned pilot Sean Tucker explained that he would soon experience G-forces, subjecting his body to forces several times his own weight.
“I’m not worried at all,” said the confident Moynihan, sporting a chin strap tan that he got from playing lacrosse.
Tucker routinely experiences up to 10 Gs in his own air shows, which equates to pressure equivalent to 10 times one’s body weight.
“I’m not going to do that, unless you want it,” Tucker joked.
“Give it a shot,” quipped Laurel, Moynihan’s mother.
The 14-year-old eighth grader got his opportunity to fly with the pro last Thursday, after being selected for the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program, which is chaired by Tucker. The Young Eagles program allows youths to apply for free flights, introducing them to aviation with one of the EAA’s pilots.
Moynihan applied for the program after his mom caught wind of it from researching the Jones Beach Air Show in Wantagh. The family learned then that not only was Moynihan accepted, but he would soon be flying with Tucker himself.
Showing up at the SheltAir aviation hangar at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, Moynihan sat with his mother to discuss preparation with Tucker.
Tucker advised Moynihan to tense his muscles while experiencing G-force to prevent too much blood from flowing away from his head, possibly inducing unconsciousness.
Strapping in, Moynihan boarded the aerobatic plane, an Extra Flugzeugbau EA300, weighing just 1,400 pounds. After a short taxi on the runway, Tucker and Moynihan took off.
Moynihan rode in the front with a steering stick all of his own.
Tucker emitted a smoke trail from the plane, making a guiding path for the newly minted pilot to follow. This let him perform barrel rolls, dives and pull-ups, with Tucker handling the throttle.
Laurel flew aboard an open-door chase plane, seeing her son fly in such a plane for the first time.
After about 20 minutes of aerobatics, the pair returned to Earth, with Moynihan visibly exhausted, but still all smiles.
“You’re a tough kid,” Tucker exclaimed, adding that the body isn’t adapted to handling G-forces.
Moynihan weighs 165 pounds. So, experiencing up to 3 Gs, he weighed three times that, 495 pounds. Tucker also explained that when flying upside down, which they also did, one’s body experiences negative G-force, resulting in weighing less than one’s normal weight.
His mother hugged him and was just as elated as he was.
“I’m so proud of you. I can’t believe you did all the cool stuff,” she said.
Moynihan is now a member of the EAA and can enroll in free flight classes to further his aviation education. He recounted that as a child, his favorite toy was an aircraft carrier.
“The aerobatics were so much fun,” said Moynihan. “I’m just tired right now.”
“What’s really fun is to share flight with a young kid because it lights that spark within. It presses their buttons to dream. And, Alex had a blast.”
“I’m really joyful in my job, and to share the magic of flight with Alex is an honor for me.”
Tucker, who has 26,000 hours of flight time under his belt, said he’s “still learning the art form.” He’s celebrating the 40th anniversary of flying his first airshow and flew in the Jones Beach airshow, which took place over Memorial Day weekend.