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Flying With the Air Force Thunderbirds: Danny Heinsohn’s memorable ride

Published: Sep. 18, 2021 at 4:15 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - “It’s like a childhood dream,” said Reno’s Danny Heinsohn.

Danny Heinsohn is as inspirational as they come.

“This is incredible for us,” said United States Air Force Thunderbirds Flight Surgeon Noel Colls.

So when Heinsohn got the chance of a lifetime to take flight with the Thunderbirds crew he couldn’t pass it up.

“Crossing the finish line at Ironmans, surviving brain cancer, starting a national foundation, they’re all milestones,” Heinsohn said. “This (experience) just marks the beginning of another milestone.”

The day after he graduated college doctors diagnosed Heinsohn with brain cancer. He beat it after getting a racquetball-sized tumor removed. Now he’s an author, endurance athlete, coach, public speaker, and philanthropist changing the lives of others for the better. It’s these accomplishments that led voters to select him as the Hometown Hero for this flight.

But traveling by fighter jet is a lot different than taking a commercial flight.

“He’s going to be doing loops, rolls, turns. We’re on 1 G - one times the force of gravity right now - and we’re going to get him up to nine times the force of gravity over the course of the profile,” said Colls.

First Heinsohn needed to be cleared by his doctor. Then work with Colls on techniques to increase blood flow, not lose consciousness, and not throw up during his flight. Mentally and physically preparing took weeks.

“It’s easy to get down. It’s easy to not want to get back up. It’s easy to get hopeless. Danny provides hope,” said Colls. “He provides that pathway forward for people like that.”

“I woke up this morning and my mom said ‘your dad would love to see you do this,’ Heinsohn said. “My dad passed away eleven years ago and I’ll be up in the heavens with him.”

And go to visit his dad in the heavens Danny did.

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