FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Chasing cocaine cartel members and breaking up a burglary ring is thrilling enough for any officer, but a 15-minute joy ride quickly topped the list of adrenaline-pumping experiences for two Fort Lauderdale Police officers Monday.
Narcotics detective John Loges and fellow patrol officer Delica Harris took turns riding in a MX2 stunt plane above Fort Lauderdale and the Everglades in a trip that included flips, rolls and a move called a hammerhead stall.
The two were honored with the acrobatic rides for their recent heroics at much lower altitudes.
When not hunting drug dealers in South Florida, Loges recently served the country as a U.S. Army veteran with tours in Iraq, Panama and Haiti. After only two years on the force, Harris was named Officer of the Month in October for helping bust a burglary ring during a routine patrol shift.
"It was really a ride of a lifetime," said Loges, moments after getting off the plane. "I am still getting choked up."
The two officers were invited to ride by the promoters of the Lauderdale Air Show which is planning to stage an aerial extravaganza in April. Loges was chosen for his career as a soldier and police officer, while Harris was picked for being Officer of the Month in October.
"They've done a lot of for our country and communities and we wanted to give them a little treat," said air show president Bryan Lilley.
Harris was the first to hop on the tiny carbon-fiber two-seater steered by world championship stunt pilot Rob Holland.
A video camera mounted inside the cockpit shows Harris screaming and hollering and trying to contain her excitement as the horizon twists and turns in the background.
"Oh my God! Oh my God!" Harris is heard repeating. "And there is definitely no twisting, no turning and no flipping."
To which Holland quickly responds, "Oh, now you say that!"
At Harris' request, the two-seater stayed mostly horizontal as it glided above the Everglades.
Moments later, it was Loges' turn, but he was looking forward to a bumpier ride.
His journey above South Florida included several flips, rolls and sideways turns over the Everglades before shooting straight into the air at top speed and then purposely stalling in mid-air. Loges said he remembers his heart racing as the plane tumbled toward the ground seemingly out of control before Holland corrected the plane with a swoop — the infamous hammerhead stall.
After the ride, Loges was giggling like a schoolboy as he described the thrill. He didn't have words for how breathtaking the community he serves looks like when viewed upside down from the sky.
"There's just no way to describe it," he said. "It was a real honor being able to do this."