Thunderbird #1 Relieved Of Command After Loss Of Confidence

posted in: Jet Teams | 2

USAF Thunderbirds in Formation

Thunderbird #1, Lt. Col. Jason Heard, was relieved of command earlier this month. The stunning news was announced today by The US Air Force’s Air Combat Command. Heard had served as the commander and flight leader of the famous USAF Thunderbirds demonstration team since taking over the role around one year ago. He lead the team’s performances at each of their 2017 appearances across North America and Europe and was due for one more season with the team.

The reasoning behind the move is quite eye-opening. According to the press release, Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt “Lost confidence in his leadership and risk management style”. Leavitt is the 57th wing commander and the one who relieved Heard. “This was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but one that is ultimately in the best interests of the Thunderbird team. I am personally grateful for Jason’s dedication to the 2017 season,” Leavitt said.

Thunderbird #1 Lt. Col. Jason Heard

Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, the Thunderbird’s 2016-2017 Operations Officer, has temporarily assumed responsibility of the team until a new commander is selected.

The timing of the move is interesting. The decision was made effective November 20th, just a week after the team concluded their 2017 airshow season with the home town Aviation Nation airshow at Nellis AFB, but it was not announced until today.

Representatives from the team are currently preparing for the annual International Council of Airshows convention next week, where the team’s schedule release is always a main event. It remains to be seen how the change in leadership might alter the winter training schedule and planned 2018 performances.

Stay tuned to AirshowStuff as we cover not only the fallout from this story, but the planned release of the jet team schedules next week!

Here is the full text of the Air Force’s press release on the matter:

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing Commander, relieved Lt. Col. Jason Heard of command of the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron upon the completion of the 2017 season effective Nov. 20, 2017.

While Heard led the team through a highly successful show season, Leavitt lost confidence in his leadership and risk management style.

Leavitt determined that new leadership was necessary to ensure the highest levels of pride, precision and professionalism within the team.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but one that is ultimately in the best interests of the Thunderbird team. I am personally grateful for Jason’s dedication to the 2017 season,” Leavitt said.

Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, the Thunderbird’s 2016-2017 Operations Officer, has temporarily assumed responsibility of the team until a new commander is selected.

The Thunderbirds are preparing for the 2018 season, training their new pilots, and look forward to inspiring crowds around the country.

2 Responses

  1. Judy Johnson

    I wish Lt. Co.Jason Heard well. I watched the Thunderbirds performance at Wings Over Houston 2017 Ellington Field and enjoyed it very much.God Bless you and your family and all of the Thunderbird Team look forward to seeing you in 2019 God Bless and keep each of you safe.

  2. Barbara Riddle

    Always sad to hear of these things, Love the Thunder birds. Special breed of pilots. God bless and keep them safe.

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