BY YAZMIN TORRES & VIVIAN GARCIA
PHOTOS BY ANDREW HOFSTETTER
After 17 years teaching at Cypress College, Aviation and Travel Careers Dpt. Chair Edilberto Valdez was selected to fly with the Blue Angels on Sept. 29, 2021.
Valdez was chosen to fly with the United States Navy flight demonstration squadron for his commitment in helping students achieve their aviation career goals. Before Valdez’s instruction at Cypress College, he held over 32 years of aviation experience. Beginning his career as a ramp agent at Los Angeles International Airport at age 18, to eventually pilot for companies such as United Airlines, Champion Air, and Skywest Airlines.
Valdez flew in “Seven,” one of the new F/A-18 Super Hornets out of Los Alamitos Joint Force Training base alongside Lt. Cmdr. Julius Bratton.
Prior to his flight, Valdez was given a safety briefing which provided detailed information on bodily function during the flight’s numbing g-force. Breathing techniques were demonstrated, which included flexing the legs and neck muscles to help stay awake during the ride. Valdez was advised about the possible side effects he could experience due to the differential of pressure.
“My dad is the person who instilled aviation in me. He was in the Mexican Air Force and I was brought to the United States at age two. His hard work enabled me to get to where I am today,” said Valdez when speaking about where his aviation career stems from.
“I am thrilled, proud and honored to fly with the Blue Angels, ever since I first saw them as a child, I loved them. Now I hope my students can see that they can do it too,” said Valdez.
Valdez expressed his dedication to his students, stating that there is no better feeling than seeing them achieve their goals and helping them along the way. “I want my students to see that they can make it, together, we can help you. Your path, your journey, enjoy it, bad times are where you grow, where you get stronger,” said Valdez.
“A los jóvenes, si quieren volar, si quieren hacer lo que quieren en la vida, lo pueden hacer. Yo tuve muchos esfuerzos pero nunca paré de tratar de seguir subiendo y buscando la manera de ser piloto” said Valdez to the youth in the Hispanic community.
Spectators who joined Valdez in celebrating this moment included Orange County Second District Supervisor Katrina Foley, Cypress College President Dr.Schilling and family. Prior to ascending into the sky, Valdez dedicated his flight to his wife and children.
As the jet canopy came down for takeoff, Valdez took off in “Seven” at 9 a.m., displaying a wide smile, with over 40-minutes of flight time ahead of him in the air.
Valdez began the flight with speed the Blue Angels are accustomed to, at around 6.3 G’s which feels equivalent to one’s body weight multiplied by the amount of G’s experienced in the air.
The flight consisted of intricate maneuvers, among Valdez’s favorite was the Sneaky verticals, where the plane reaches a speed of 0.9x the speed of sound, or “0.9 Mach” in a fully vertical position and spirals as it climbs altitude.
“No passing out for this guy,” said Valdez as he waved empty barf bags when landing from the flight as well as flashing hand signals representing the 7.5 G’s he was able to withstand.
“He did amazing, 99 percentile. We did everything you could in an F/A-18 and he did it like he flies fighter jets for a living. Obviously, he’s a pilot so I’m not surprised there” said Lt. Cmdr. Julius Bratton, who joined Valdez in checking off a bucket list item for him.
After Valdez returned to the ground with both feet on Earth, he was awarded a certificate to commemorate his achievement of riding inside the cockpit of a US Navy Blue Angels fighter jet, and his efforts in mentoring students striving to complete their aviation dreams.
“When someone talks about helping students make their dreams come true, that’s what gets to me,” said Valdez.
With a top speed of approximately 600mph achieved in flight, Valdez completed his childhood dream.