USAF Thunderbirds Announce New Pilots and Officers for 2019

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams | 3

USAF Thunderbirds

The USAF Thunderbirds have announced the new pilots and officers for the 2019 show season.

Lt. Col. John Caldwell, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron Commander, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will become Thunderbird No. 1, the squadron’s Commander/Leader. Caldwell will replace Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh.

Capt. Michael Brewer of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., has been selected as Thunderbird No. 3, the team’s Right Wing Pilot.

Maj. Whit Collins, the current Lead Solo Pilot, will transition to the Slot Pilot position as Thunderbird No. 4 in 2019.

The Thunderbirds will also have another female pilot in 2019! Capt. Michelle Curran of the 355th Fighter Squadron, located at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, has been chosen as Thunderbird No. 6, the team’s Opposing Solo Pilot. This will be the first show season since 2014 with a female demonstration pilot on the team. Maj. Matt Kimmel, the current Opposing Solo Pilot, will transition to the Lead Solo position in 2019.

Capt. Michelle “Mace” Curran
Pic by Staff Sgt. Samantha Mathison

Maj. Jason Markzon, 35th Maintenance Operations Flight Commander and F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot assigned to the 13th Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan, will become Thunderbird No. 8, the team’s Advance Pilot and Narrator.

Lt. Col. (Dr.) Noel Colls, a flight surgeon and family practice resident assigned to the 60th Medical Operations Squadron Travis Air Force Base, Calif., will become Thunderbird No. 9, the team’s Flight Surgeon. As the team’s flight doctor, Lt. Col Colls will be responsible for the health and safety of the team and working with the pilots to ensure their flight readiness.

In a statement, the team’s current commander, Lt. Col Kevin Walsh said tThis year’s exceptional officer applicant pool reflects the incredible degree of talent, motivation and diversity that exists throughout our Air Force. It was a tough selection process, but ultimately these officers rose to the top. The Thunderbirds are proud to welcome these leaders aboard as they assume responsibility for showcasing the pride, precision and professionalism of more than 660,000 total force Airmen serving around the world.”

Officers on the Thunderbirds team serve two year tours of duty. By design, the position openings are staggered, allowing the squadron to maintain continuity of experience and leadership. In 2020, Thunderbird Nos. 2, 4, 6, 7, 10 and 12 will be replaced.

Congrats to all of the newly selected team members!

Fat Albert May Return to Airshows This Weekend at Pensacola Beach

posted in: Jet Teams | 0

Fat Albert Returns to Shows at Pensacola Beach Airshow
Those attending the Pensacola Beach airshow this weekend may get to see a sight that has been missing from shows for quite awhile- Fat Albert!

Earlier this year, we reported on the potential of Bert returning to shows this summer. In an interview with NewsRadio 1620, Major Mark Montgomery said the team has been working really hard to get Bert ready to fly and they are very close.

Fat Albert and the rest of the Marine Corps C-130T Hercules fleet has been grounded since the 2017 crash of a C-130 in Mississippi that killed all 16 service members onboard. Before that, Bert missed airshows while undergoing an extensive overhaul. Ironically, she returned to shows at the Pensacola Beach airshow in 2017.

Major Montgomery says the team was not waiting for the opportunity to return in front of the home crowd- but it just kinda worked out this way with the timing.

Bert’s appearance won’t be a full airshow routine as she’s not been cleared for that, just yet. Since the air frame has not flown in almost a year, the team feels it is best to slowly ease into it, instead of throwing the aircraft through a high G performance without fully evaluating it. However, it certainly will be nice to see Bert back in the skies regardless!

If you’re heading to the show and snap some pictures, share them with us on our forums!

Blue Angels Preparing Fat Albert For Return To Airshows This Summer

posted in: Jet Teams | 2

US Navy Blue Angels - C-130 Hercules Fat Albert

Could Fat Albert, the US Navy Blue Angels’ C-130 transport, return to airshows soon? There are several indications that say yes!

During an interview with NewsRadio1620 on May 30th, Commander Doyle (Blue Angel #1) said that the team is working on getting the current Fat Albert repaired and operational – potentially in time for the Pensacola Beach airshow, traditionally held in July. This year’s show will be held July 11-14th.

The road to get Bert flying again has been a long one. Fat Albert and the rest of the Marine Corps C-130T Hercules fleet has been grounded since the 2017 crash of a C-130 in Mississippi that killed all 16 service members onboard. Before that, Bert missed airshows while undergoing an extensive overhaul. Ironically, she returned to shows at the Pensacola Beach airshow in 2017.

We’ve also seen some pictures posted recently on social media that lead us to believe Bert will be back to flying status soon.

The potential return of Bert to flying status isn’t the only interesting thing going on with the famous blue and gold C-130. In March, we wrote about a government contract that solicited a Royal Air Force C-130J to replace Bert. Not many details have come out about the potential acquisition of the airframe to replace the current C-130T model.

AirshowStuff has reached out to the Blue Angels for comment on this.

Dan Buchanan Killed In Hang Glider Accident At Mountain Home AFB Airshow

posted in: Airshows | 3

An accident at an airshow in Idaho has killed hang glider pilot Dan Buchanan.

Buchanan was flying at the Gunfighter Skies Air and Space Celebration at Mountain Home Air Force Base.

At this time, the cause of the crash is unknown.

The remainder of Saturday’s show, including the performance by the USAF Thunderbirds, was canceled. Sunday’s airshow will be held, as a tribute to Dan.

In 1981, Buchanan was injured in a different hang glider incident. That accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. Despite this handicap, Dan returned to flying within six months and flew his first airshow in 1989.

Buchanan was a popular performer on the airshow circuit, with his daytime and nighttime glider routines. Over the years his awards and accolades have included the Art Scholl Award for Showmanship, the Bill Barber Award for Showmanship and the ICAS Special Achievement Award.

Follow along in our forums for further updates.

Canadian Snowbirds Visit Blue Angels, Perform In Pensacola

posted in: Jet Teams | 1

Snowbirds and Blue Angels at Pensacola

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds made a visit to NAS Pensacola, home of the US Navy Blue Angels, ahead of their show in Anderson, SC.

The team arrived Sunday night, and joined the Blues in ‘buzzing the beach’, their tradition when returning home from a show. Because the Snowbirds were low on fuel, the teams did not join up but flew along the white sandy beaches of Pensacola at the same time.

Fans in the area also got a special treat during the week from the Canadian team as they practiced over the base. Traditionally, the Blue Angels practice during the week at Pensacola, with performances open to the public. To have two jet teams perform several times in one week was quite the show!

The teams took the opportunity to ride with each other and discuss best practices. Last year, the US Air Force Thunderbirds stopped by Pensacola for a similar visit.

The teams also took some time to sign autographs following their practice performance.

Snowbirds and Blue Angels Sign AutographsSnowbirds and Blue Angels at Pensacola

Snowbirds and Blue Angels Sign Autographs

Snowbirds and Blue Angels at Pensacola

Major Changes to 2018 F-35 Lightning II Airshow Schedule

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Military, Schedules | 6

USAF F-35 Lightning II

A recent update to the ACC schedule has removed five shows originally scheduled for 2018. This comes after a few shows were added to the schedule a few weeks ago.

The canceled shows are:
– Myrtle Beach, SC – April 28-29th
– MCAS Cherry Point, NC – May 5-6th
– Seattle, WA SeaFair – Aug 2-5th
– Reno Air Races, Reno, NV – Sept 14-16th
– Ft. Worth, TX – Oct 13-14th

At this time, the reason for the schedule change is unknown. AirshowStuff has reached out to ACC and the F-35 Heritage Flight team for a comment.

With the changes, the F-35 will perform in ten Heritage Flights this year and appear at two international shows as a static display. The team will also make a third, much requested performance at the Royal International Air Tattoo, known to many as RIAT at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, England in mid July.

This news comes after we learned the F-35 would be doing more than ever- adding extra flybys to it’s 2018 performance. In years prior, the aircraft would only takeoff and join up with the other aircraft for the Heritage Flight.

What are your thoughts on the schedule changes? Were you planning to go to any of the canceled shows? Join the discussion on our forums and let us know.

USAF Report: Wet Runway Contributed To Thunderbird F-16 Crash In Dayton

posted in: Jet Teams | 0
USAF Thunderbird #8 Crash in Dayton, OH
Photo via AP: Dayton Daily News

US Air Force officials stated that “excess speed and insufficient stopping distance” on a soaked runway resulted in the crash of a two seat F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the USAF Thunderbirds in Dayton, Ohio this past June.

Capt. Erik “Speedy” Gonsalves, Thunderbird #8, was in command of the jet at the time of the incident. Sgt. Kenneth Cordova, a maintenance crew member, was also on board at the time. The two were on a “familiarization flight” over Dayton while the team was in town to perform at the 2017 Vectren Dayton Airshow.

Upon landing, the jet slid off the runway and into the grass, causing the aircraft to flip.

The report mentions that Gonsalves missed his first landing approach and that water had restricted the view of his head-up display or HUD. This forced him to rely solely on cockpit instruments. On the second approach, the report claims that Gonsalves focused more on the runway than his airspeed, contributing to the crash. The Thunderbird F-16 touched down with only 6,130 feet of runway left. Seven to eight thousand feet of runway is required to land safely on wet pavement. The aircraft exited the runway and came to rest upside down in the grass nearby. It was destroyed in the incident.

An audio recording between Air Traffic Control and Thunderbird 8, obtained by the Dayton Daily News last month, revealed that the pilot was warned of “extreme precipitation” in the area and that ATC told him he was “flying at your own risk.”

In a statement, Air Combat Command spokeswoman Maj. Malinda Singleton said “Capt. Gonsalves is traveling with the team and narrating shows, but he is not medically cleared to fly at this time.”

Second African-American Thunderbird Honored In Alabama

posted in: Jet Teams | 1

Captain Joseph “Pete” Peterson

The USAF Thunderbirds honored one of their own during a dedication ceremony in Tuskegee, Alabama.

Captain Joseph N. “Pete” Peterson graduated from Tuskegee Public School in 1967. It was during his high school years when he developed an interest in flying and started taking lessons. After graduation, he attended Auburn University and participated in the school’s ROTC program. On August 27th, 1971, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. During his flying career, he served in Korea flying the F-4E Phantom.

In 1981, Capt. Peterson joined the Thunderbirds. As only the second African-American pilot to join the team, he broke barriers and continued to change the way things were done. Sadly, he was one of the four pilots killed in the infamous “Diamond Crash” in 1982.

A 10.5 mile portion of State Road 199 in Tuskegee, AL changed names to honor Peterson. The Captain Joseph “Pete” Peterson Memorial Boulevard honors the legacy that Peterson left. The road, near Morton Field Airport, connects two former Tuskegee airfields where black pilots trained in the days when training was segregated.

In a post on their Facebook page, the USAF Thunderbirds said that “as a Thunderbird, Pete exemplified everything we are as Airmen then and today — Bold, Courageous, and always #BreakingBarriers”

The six F-16 fighting falcons performed a flyover during the ceremony.

Thunderbirds Flyover State Route 199

Photos courtesy of the USAF Thunderbirds

2017 Jet Team Seasons Coming To A Close

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams | 0

Blue Angels 2017 Season About to End

As the temperatures cool, the 2017 airshow season is coming to a close. The Canadian Forces Snowbirds wrapped up their season on October 22nd, in Moose Jaw, SK with their traditional home show for families.

The Blue Angels have a couple shows left before their traditional home closer at NAS Pensacola. The team will perform in Jacksonville, FL on November 4-5th before returning to Pensacola for the November 11-12th end of season show. The 2017 season has been one of ups and downs for the team, with Fat Albert being grounded for an extended amount of time due to a maintenance overhaul and a fleet grounding which ordered after a Marine C-130 crashed in Mississippi in July. On a positive note, the six blue and gold jets performed full displays at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in late July for the first time ever.

The Thunderbirds will also wrap up their 2017 show season at Nellis AFB on November 11-12th. The team performed in 36 cities, along with many additional flyovers, during the show season. The team performed flyovers of both the Super Bowl and the Daytona 500, and traveled across the Atlantic to fly at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) and appeared in the French Bastille Day military parade.

All three North American jet teams had the rare opportunity to fly with their Patrouille de France counterparts during their tour of US and Canada in the spring. The PAF visited the Blue Angels in Pensacola, the Thunderbirds at Nellis, and the Snowbirds in Ontario, making for some spectacular and rare photo opportunities.

Didn’t get a chance to see one of the jet teams in 2017? Check out the preliminary 2018 schedules for the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels to see if they’ll be near you next year. Keep in mind that the 2018 schedules for all three teams will be released/updated at the annual ICAS convention during the second week of December. Stay tuned to AirshowStuff for the details as soon as they are available!

WATCH: The Best Of Military Aviation – September 2017

posted in: Featured Videos, Military | 0

Each month we bring you a compilation of the very best military aviation videos on our Youtube channel. These videos take you inside military operations all over the world for things like exercises, aircraft carrier operations, aerial refueling, and training missions. Please enjoy the February video, which you can watch below or view on Youtube: The Best Of Military Aviation – September 2017

A compilation of the best military aviation clips from September 2017. Featuring a A-10 Warthog cockpit footage, B-52 Stratofortress operations, US Marine Corps aerial refueling of F-35 Lightning IIs and AV-8B Harriers, F-35 Lightning II and helicopter aircraft carrier operations aboard the USS Kearsarge and USS Gerald R Ford, and more!

Be sure to check out the other videos in the series as well by checking out the Best of Military Aviation video playlist!

This footage is courtesy of the Department of Defense and we are posting it solely for the enjoyment of our viewers. Its use is not meant to imply any endorsement of any kind.

Video credits:
Petty Officer 1st Class Josue Escobosa – Navy Media Content Services
Staff Sgt. Shellby Matullo – 1st Combat Camera Squadron
Seaman Clint Davis – Navy Media Content Services
Master Sgt. Andrew Moseley – 379th Air Expeditionary Wing
Tech. Sgt. Joe Laws – USS Kearsarge (LHD 3)
Tech. Sgt. Joseph J Prouse – 129th Rescue Wing
Lance Cpl. Carlos Jimenez and Cpl. Waiyan Tin – Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
Senior Airman James Merriman – 1st Combat Camera Squadron
Lance Cpl. Jonathon Wiederhold – 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Combat Camera
Airman 1st Class Stephanie Gelardo – 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Senior Airman James Merriman – 1st Combat Camera Squadron
Petty Officer 1st Class Jonathan Pankau – USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)

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