When you're seconds from launching into weightlessness on board the Blue Angels' "Fat Albert" C-130T transport plane -- its four propellers roaring outside in anticipation -- you don't want to be the guy whose seat belt doesn't work.

I was that guy.

For that fleeting moment, I regretted accepting the demonstration team's invitation to ride on board the 37-year-old aircraft with a handful of other reporters and about 40 men and women from all branches of the military as part of a preview to this weekend's air show over Charleston Harbor.

Finally, just when I thought we were about to take off, a member of the all-Marine Corps crew checked out the faulty restraint, tightened it a bit and assured me that the broken strap wasn't a big deal. "It gets crazy in here, but not that crazy," she told me. "You'll be fine."

At that point, one of the military men next to me leaned over to me with a chuckle, "Famous last words."

And then we were off. The 100,000-pound plane quickly accelerated up and off the runway, speeding along at some 180 mph just four feet off the ground.

The plane is built to take off quickly in tight, hostile situations. Once we hit the maximum flying speed, Marine Maj. Brendan Burks pulled the plane up at a 45-degree angle -- passenger airlines usually climb at about a 7-degree angle -- making it feel like we were going straight up.

Once we hit 1,500 feet, Burks pulled back on the stick as hard as he could, launching everyone and everything that wasn't nailed down to the floor. Grown men screamed. Someone's cellphone cover flew by my face.

I gripped my complimentary "air sickness" bag and my own cell phone, looking into the distance thinking happy thoughts. I didn't want to be that guy who had to use the bag.

Luckily, I was not that guy.

For about 15 minutes, the flight straightened out and we soared over Charleston at 375 mph. The crew opened up the cargo ramp and two members showed off for us. They nonchalantly stood on the ramp and peered down at the blurry tributaries and houses with only a harness holding them inside the plane.

Once the ramp was shut, we were told that the "big stuff" hadn't even started yet. One of the passengers with her head between her legs let out a groan. We were weightless three or four more times. We banked hard to the left and then to the right. Some of the passengers' jaws dropped to the floor as they watched the Ravenel Bridge -- just 150 feet from the wing -- zip by through the window behind me.

I watched the top of the ocean as we passed by just 60 feet above the water.

There were moments when my brain felt like it was down there somewhere by the soles of my shoes. The 2 Gs made me feel 400 pounds.

Eventually the herky-jerky movements took their toll. One person used the bag, then another, then another. Everyone remembered to keep the bag closed in between uses because the contents have been known to fly back out during weightlessness. That didn't stop the drafty cargo hold from turning into a sweaty sauna that smelled of vomit. The odor alone was as bad as the sudden movements.

Happy thoughts.

Then came the landing. Fat Albert lands at about a 25-degree angle, compared with an airliner that lands at some 3 degrees. It was over quickly, as Burks hit his mark on the runway.

We all staggered off as if we just spent 25 minutes on the Tilt-A-Whirl. Our flight on board "Fat Albert Airlines" was over, with just one friendly reminder from a crew member.

"If you put something in your bag, make sure you take it with you."

Happy thoughts.

Reach Andy Paras at 937-5589, aparas@postandcourier.com or on twitter at www.twitter.com/AndyParas.