Outstanding Chapparrel Alumni

John Evans was a 2001 graduate of Chapparrel Highschool.

CCSD officer soars with the Thunderbirds

By David Roddy

The thought of barreling down a runway at 500 miles per hour and then shooting straight up 14,000 feet into the sky in a matter of seconds would be terrifying to most people, but for Clark County School District Police Officer John Evans, the opportunity to fly with an Air Force Thunderbird pilot was a once in a lifetime opportunity and he loved every minute of it.

The ride along with Thunderbird Pilot, Captain Kristin Hubbard, took place in conjunction with the annual Aviation Nation event that was held at Nellis Air Force Base in November during Veterans Day weekend. Evans, who has been with the department since 2007, was selected for the ride as a result of the Hometown Heroes program, which recognizes law enforcement officers, firefighters and medics who have been placed in dangerous and/or life-threatening situations and whose actions have been deemed as heroic. JohnEvans

For Evans, a patrol officer for the district, he found himself in a dangerous situation in April 2011. He was off-duty in the area of Sahara Avenue, when an altercation between a group of individuals suddenly turned into a shooting. Fearing for the safety of citizens in the area Officer Evans intervened in this very dangerous situation at great personal risk to himself. Because of Officer Evans quick decision to step in many lives were saved and a convicted felon was taken into custody.

A graduate of Chaparral High School, Evans comes from a family with a history of service to the community through law enforcement and/or military. In addition to himself, his father, an uncle, his brother and sister have all been or are currently serving in the military or law enforcement, so his decision to become an officer was a natural choice. And with all the family ties to the military, when Evans got the call inviting him to ride along with a Thunderbirds pilot, it was hard to tell who was more excited - Evans or all the members of his family.

Although Evans was ready to go on the ride the instant he received the offer, there is a lot of preparation that took place before he would get the chance to climb into the cockpit of the jet.

Following a physical exam, the preparations started with a briefing about the flight suit, the plane, breathing techniques and a course on cockpit ejections, in the event of an emergency situation that would require them to punch out. After all those requirements were completed, it was finally time to put on his flight suit and get ready for the ride.

Going through the entire process was exciting, but it kept getting better with each step in the process, said Evans. It is hard to describe the level of excitement, but it just increased once I walked out on the tarmac and saw they had painted my name on the plane, just like Captain Hubbards.
The excitement ramped up even more as he turned around and saw his family, including his wife and three children on the tarmac, providing them with the opportunity to share his big moment.
After posing for photos next to the plane, it was time and he stepped up on the ladder and into the cockpit, so the flight crew could put the hook and harness in place and then leave the rest up to Captain Hubbard.

Within seconds, Hubbard had the jet zipping down the runway and then straight up into the sky. In addition to working with all the controls on a $14 million dollar machine, and talking with air traffic control, Hubbard encouraged Evans to look behind him as the jet was going straight up into the air as the landmarks behind him continued to shrink. See footage of the flight

This was an experience I wish I could have shared with the entire family as it is something I would not be able to put into words, said Evans. The only point of reference I would have was a feeling something like seeing your first child being born.
Although Evans was the rookie in the cockpit, he rapidly adjusted and continued to mimic the captains breathing technique in order to keep the blood flowing to the brain, so as not to pass out from the G-forces they were experiencing. Evans did so well during his ride that Hubbard was able to execute all of the maneuvers the Thunderbirds use in their shows, with the exception of doing a loop, which was not allowed because a cap of 18,000 feet had been placed on the flight. However, during the maneuvers, the captain did hit 9.3 Gís at one time, which put Evans in elite company of the civilians who have been on the ride along flights.

The flight lasted for just over an hour, but covered extensive parts over southern Nevada and into California as it only took the jet nine minutes to reach the California border once they took off from the base.

As the flight was concluding and Hubbard skillfully glided the jet over the runway, Evans could only describe his experience as one that left him awestruck. However, the feelings of euphoria would continue as the family was there waiting for him. In addition to having the chance for the family to have pictures taken with Hubbard, the captain presented him with a 9G pin and a framed Thunderbirds photo that was signed by all of the pilots.

The presentation and photo opportunity also provided Evans with a lighthearted moment, as he was aware of his helmet-hair look, but Hubbard hopped out of the plane, removed her helmet and appeared to not have a hair out of place and looking like they had just made a lap around the tarmac rather than experiencing a 9G flight.

Although his life has resumed its regular routine, Evans plans to use his experience flying with a Thunderbirds pilot as a motivational message for the students he works with, especially the ones at Chaparral High School, which is in his regular patrol area.

I can tell them that I was once like them, sitting in those same classrooms and now I have a career and have had the opportunity to fly with the Thunderbirds and they can do great things with their lives.

CCSD Police Department Officer John Evans (right) receives a framed Thunderbirds photo that was signed by each of the pilots. Presenting the photo was Air Force Captain Kristen Hubbard (left), the pilot for Evans ride along experience.