BRUNSWICK, Maine — Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Seth Wescott stood in the cockpit of a U.S. Air Force Thunderbird jet Thursday morning and started to descend to the tarmac — then climbed back in and, with his smartphone, took a quick photo of the dashboard controls.
“It was awesome,” Wescott deemed his flight, which took place a day before the Great State of Maine Air Show, featuring the Thunderbirds, begins at Brunswick Landing.
Just after 10 a.m. Thursday, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jason Koltes flew the professional snowboarder from Brunswick to Belfast, Bangor, and then around Sugarloaf Mountain — where everyone seemed to know already that it was Wescott circling the mountain for 15 to 20 minutes.
Wescott lives in Carrabassett Valley and owns a restaurant at the base of the mountain in addition to training, hosting a snowboard event and playing golf at Sugarloaf.
“We took Seth up today and took him through the ringers,” Koltes said back at the former Navy base, about an hour after they took off.
Koltes then presented Wescott with “the coveted 9g pin,” noting that the Thunderbird “actually pulled 9g’s.”
“That was some of the most intense stuff I’ve ever felt,” Wescott said once his feet were on the tarmac. “[Koltes] kind of built it up — 5g, 7g … you have to focus on your breathing. It’s intense.”
As the jet returned to Brunswick, Wescott received a flurry of text messages, he said, “about the show we put on over Carrabassett Valley today.”
One came from Ethan Austin, communications manager for Sugarloaf USA.
“We were all taking bets to see if he stayed conscious or threw up,” Austin said Thursday afternoon of his text message to Wescott, a personal friend.
“He said he was fine. They hit 9.5g’s and he was fine.”
Word of Wescott’s flyover got out via Facebook, Austin said, and by the time the Thunderbird arrived in Carrabassett Valley, “everybody around the valley seemed to know it was Seth.”
“It kind of just shows how attached he is to the area,” Austin said. “This is home for him. It’s great that he wanted to fly over and say hi to all his friends.”
The Great State of Maine Air Show runs Friday through Sunday at Brunswick Landing.
For information visit www.greatstateofmaineairshow.us.