PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Fr. Joseph McCaffrey shares lofty sentiments with parishioners at Saints John and Peter Church in Franklin Park.
But he also reaches lofty heights of his own, piloting his Cessna airplane. And on Wednesday, he soared through the heavens with the Navy’s daring Blue Angels.
Navy pilot Ryan Chamberlain prepares him for the flight. But the priest says he’s had some “private” talks as well.
“I’ve been praying all day,” said Fr. Mac. “I said, ‘Lord, if you can allow St. Peter to walk on water, you can get me through this.'”
The flight is a preview of Saturday’s air show at Arnold Palmer Airport in Latrobe.
“We get to show them what it’s like to not only fly in an F-18, to see what the demonstration maneuvers are like, but more importantly, show them what it is that the Navy and Marine Corps is capable of, and what they’re doing on their behalf all around the world,” says the pilot.
In cases of air sickness, he says, “If it happens, it happens. That’s why we have bags back there.”
Time for takeoff.
The blue jet hugs the runway for a matter of seconds, and then, straight up.
Fr. Mac’s flight lasts 45 minutes. Getting some rolls, some turns, catching some G’s.
Finally, the F-18 touches down on the tarmac. The rider says it was nothing like his Cessna.
“The thing that I was most impressed with, I mean, I’m a pilot,” he says. “I fly a prop plane. But how smooth that can be, in the hands of a proper pilot.”
To be on the safe side, he says, he said a lot of prayers.
It isn’t every priest who gets to fly with the Angels.
Fr. Mac joined “The KDKA Morning News” with Larry Richert and John Shumway 24 hours after his flight with the Blue Angels to talk about his experience.
“It’s just so hard to imagine unless you do it. Literally, you feel like you’re tied to a rocket ship,” he said.
He also said he didn’t black out, but was close.
“I think went to visit the angels,” he said.
You can see the Blue Angels this weekend during the Westmoreland County Air Show.