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Posted on Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 1:37 p.m.

Red Wings' Justin Abdelkader flies with Blue Angels, takes shots (he wishes) at Michigan Stadium

By Kyle Meinke


Blue Angels pilot Lt. Dave Tickle, left, controls the jet with Red Wing forward Justin Abdelkader as his passenger.

Angela J. Cesere |

Michigan football opponents weren’t shy about dropping bombs on the Wolverines’ defense last year.

Neither was Detroit Red Wings star — and former Michigan State Spartan — Justin Abdelkader as he flew 15,000 feet over Michigan Stadium aboard a Blue Angel fighter jet Wednesday morning.

“Joking around, we flew over Ann Arbor, went over the Big House — if we would have had a couple of bombs on it, maybe we would have dropped a couple on there,” quipped Abdelkader, who scored the game-winning goal for Michigan State in the 2007 national championship game.

At least he would have been conscious for that.

Abdelkader said he “blacked out a few times” during the 30-minute jaunt across the Michigan sky and had to focus on his breathing to maintain cognizance.

He took off in Blue Angel No. 7 from Willow Run Airport at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Within 3 seconds, Lt. Dave Tickle, who was piloting the F/A-18 Hornet, had set a skyward course of nearly 90 degrees.

In other words: Straight up.

“Definitely the takeoff,” Abdelkader said, when asked what was the most difficult part of a journey. “We took off, and just shot straight up right away, so you get introduced to the Gs.”

Tickle said he topped out at a g-force of about 7.4 — that is, the normal force of 215 pounds on Abdelkader's 6-foot-1 frame was 1,591 pounds.

“Going through turns, a lot of times I didn’t even know what direction we were going because I was so focused on moving my legs and breathing at the right reps,” he said. “’Are we going left or right, or up or down?’ I just didn’t know.”

Abdelkader grew up in Muskegon, where he starred for Mona Shore High School. He has attended the Muskegon Air Show since he was 4, and took a few flying lessons when he was 13 or 14. He still would like to one day obtain his pilot’s license.

Now a forward with the Red Wings, Abdelkader finally had a chance to fly with the Blue Angels.

“Growing up, and always being fascinated by pilots, and wanting to be a pilot one day, just to go up in a fighter jet — one of the premier fighter jets — is incredible,” Abdelkader said.

“I dreamed of this. Just like you dream of playing hockey in the NHL, you dream of going up in a fighter jet. When I was younger, to think I was going to have an opportunity to this, I never would have thought it were possible.”

The fighter jet topped out at 550 mph and traversed about 35 miles northwest.

Including past Ann Arbor.

“One of the maneuvers I can show him is the bombing hop,” Tickle said. “As we speak right now, we have men and women flying in Iraq, Afghanistan, wherever else. So, I wanted to be able to show him kind of what we do.

“We just happened to be over Ann Arbor at the time, and I know he’s a big Michigan State guy. So it worked out great we could pretend we were bombing Ann Arbor for him.

“Obviously I would never bomb Ann Arbor. I have nothing against Michigan.”

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 1:39 p.m.

Hey Justin: how has Michigan State Hockey done since 2007? 0 Tournaments; no CCHA titles since 2001 (!), and you canned Comley just to make a dumber mistake in hiring Anastos. Go Blue!


Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 2:29 a.m.

Why is Ann wasting time talking to a sparty. This was a total waste of time and space. We really do not care what he thinks. Should have flown him over little brother ville and dropped him from 30,000 feet or so.


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 7:15 p.m.

I think this was great, but then again I have a little experience with VFA-82 and 86 back in the 90's with the C series. It's good for Justin to experience this, nothing like it in the world. --401 Hornet ball 3.2 :)

Top Cat

Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 7:06 p.m.

The comments show that some people aren't handling the heat very well. Hydrate ! Hydrate !

steve h

Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 6:38 p.m.

I didn't know liberal, tree huggers paid attention to hockey. who woulda thunk it


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 6:37 p.m.

'maybe we could have dropped a couple on there,' quipped abdelkader. not too late to JOIN up and SERVE your country and maybe earn a free ride to kabul, mr abdelkader. and i'm NOT joking.

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 6:11 p.m.

That is so sweet - learning that a government plane was used to pretend-bomb Ann Arbor. Perhaps instead of focusing on remaining conscious while strafing a Michigan football game, Abdelkader can learn to stay out of the penalty box.