Video: Inside Team Oracle Aerobatic Extra

Young aerobatic star Cameron Jaxheimer gave Flying a sample of his talents with a thrilling flight over Oshkosh.

Of all the commands that Cameron Jaxheimer gave me as we took off in an Extra 300 from Oshkosh’s Wittman Regional Airport, “Clench everything” is the order that stood out. After all, every moment leading up to our flight, including my flight preparation and the crucial instructions on how to use my parachute in a worst-case scenario, was muffled in my head as I kept telling myself, “Just don’t puke, man. Just don’t puke.” So, when Cameron told me to “clench everything” in response to the G-Force I’d soon be experiencing, my inner monologue basically went from “Don’t puke” to “Clench everything… wait, what?”

If the goal of my Flying colleagues was to make me lose my breakfast inside the tiny plane, it was a failure. But if the goal was to make me giggle like a child before shouting, "Holy moly!" several dozen times as Cameron snap-rolled me across the mildly cloudy Wisconsin sky, it was a roaring success. (Having a one-year-old son at home, I've learned to avoid profanity in any situation… even when I'm sitting in a completely vertical airplane and staring directly at the ground beneath me, with only a seatbelt keeping me from smacking my face against the canopy.)

My pilot, a Seattle native who graduated from Aviation High School and went on to study commercial aviation at the University of North Dakota, deserves an incredible amount of credit for keeping me relaxed and chatty during the flight. The time-lapse video above doesn’t show it, but the final few minutes of our trip featured me taking a lot of deep breaths while peeling my white knuckles from the bars around my seat. All the while, Cameron kept asking, “Are you OK? Want to keep going?”

I couldn’t see his face, but I know he had a big smirk as I told him I’d probably had enough for my first flight. Just as I’m sure he’s grateful I didn’t make a mess inside his plane, I’m even more thankful that Cameron was willing to punctuate my first trip to Oshkosh with an unforgettable, barrel-rolling experience.