Local pilot makes "big" stop at home before turning in Blue Angel - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Local pilot makes "big" stop at home before turning in Blue Angel wings

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Major Drew Hess Major Drew Hess
Major Hess's parents, Bob and Kathy Hess, watch the "Fat Albert" fly overhead. Major Hess's parents, Bob and Kathy Hess, watch the "Fat Albert" fly overhead.
Fat Albert Fat Albert

By Samantha Ptashkin

JANESVILLE (WREX)- All weekend long people have been keeping their eyes on the skies at the Southern Wisconsin Airfest in Janesville, and one local pilot plays a big role in the show. From high speed maneuvers to graceful gliding, for the past three years, Major Drew Hess has been the "flying" force behind the U.S. Navy's demonstration squad, better known as the Blue Angels. But soon this Rockford native's journey will come to an end.

The Blue Angels C-130 support plane is more afectionately known as Fat Albert. "This aircraft as it stands weighs about 100,000 pounds. We can stop it about 1,200 feet," Major Hess said.

He's the man in command of it all. Major Hess is a 1991 Guilford graduate, who began learning the ins and outs of the air right near the Poplar Grove Airport. He got his pilot's license at age 17.

You could say his need for speed "flies" in the family. "I'm an aviator. My father was an aviator. His uncle was an aviator," said Bob Hess, Major Hess's father.

Now this aviator's proud parents enjoy watching their son in the sky. "It's just so exciting. I vacillate between screaming and goosebumps," said Kathy Hess, Major Hess's mother.

Almost three years and about 200 shows across the country, it all goes by pretty fast. "When he first started three years ago I said it would be the fastest three years of his life," Kathy said.

But it's not life in the fast lane that has kept Major Hess coming back for more. "For me personally, it's working with the crew. I'm fortunate enough to work with a great bunch of guys. As you saw on the flight we have a lot of fun doing it and I think the crew aspect is the part I like best," Major Hess said.

It's that crew camaraderie, and this performance so close to home in his last year, that will leave a mark when Major Hess makes his final Fat Albert landing. "It's a little bit bittersweet. It's a lot of work, but at the same time it's not really work because we have so much fun doing it."

If you still haven't seen the Blue Angels perform, there's still time. The airshow runs through May 31 at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport.

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