USAF Thunderbirds 2020 Preliminary Airshow Schedule Released

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 0

US Air Force Thunderbirds - AirshowStuff

Here is the preliminary 2020 airshow schedule for the US Air Force Thunderbirds! This schedule has been released on a preliminary basis only, and will likely see notable changes. Please make sure to check back with us in December of 2019 when an updated 2020 schedule is released!

Preliminary US Air Force Thunderbirds 2020 Appearance Schedule

March 7-8: Fiesta of Flight – Laughlin AFB, TX
March 14-15: OFF
March 21-22: Luke Days Air and Space Expo – Luke AFB, AZ
March 28-29: March Field Air and Space Expo: Thunder Over the Empire – March AFB, CA

April 4-5: Sun-N-Fun Fly-In and Expo – Lakeland, FL
April 11-12: OFF
April 18-19: Maxwell AFB, AL
April 25-26: Wings Over Columbus – Columbus AFB , MS

May 2-3: Ford Lauderdale Air Show – Fort Lauderdale, FL
May 9-10: Beale AFB, CA
May 16-17: Shaw Air and Space Expo – Shaw AFB, SC
May 23-24: Miami Beach Air & Sea Show – Miami Beach, FL
May 26: USAF Academy Graduation – Colorado Springs, CO
May 30-31: OFF

June 6-7: California International Airshow – Salinas, CA
June 13-14: Ocean City Airshow – Ocean City, MD
June 20-21: Thunder over the Valley – Youngstown ARB, OH
June 27-28: Warriors over Wasatch Air and Space Show – Hill AFB, UT

July 4-5: Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival – Battle Creek, MI
July 11-12: Arctic Thunder Open House – JB Elmendorf, AK
July 18-19: Duluth Air and Aviation Expo – Duluth, MN
July 25-26: Ellsworth Air and Space Show – Ellsworth AFB, SD

August 1-2: Grand Fork AFB Air Show – Grand Forks AFB, ND
August 8-9: OFF
August 15-16: Chicago Air and Water Show – Chicago, IL
August 22-23: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Armed Forces Airshow – Avoca, PA
August 26: Thunder over the Boardwalk – Atlantic City, NJ
August 29-30: New York Air Show – New Windsor, NY

September 5-6: OFF
September 12-13: Airshow London – London, Ontario
September 19-20: The Great Pacific Airshow – Huntington Beach, CA
September 26-27: Kansas City Air Show – Gardner, KS

October 3-4:Aviation Roundup Airshow – Minden, NV
October 10-11: Aerospace Valley Air & Space Show – Edwards AFB, CA
October 17-18: Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show – Fort Worth, TX
October 24-25: Wings over North Georgia – Rome, GA
October 31-November 1: Orlando Sanford Air Show – Sanford, FL

November 7-8: NASJRB New Orleans Airshow – New Orleans, LA

Again, this schedule is for 2020. If you’re looking for 2018 airshow appearances, check out USAF Thunderbirds 2019 Airshow Schedule Released

USAF Thunderbirds 2019 Airshow Schedule Released

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 1

US Air Force Thunderbirds - AirshowStuff

Here is the 2019 airshow schedule for the US Air Force Thunderbirds! Will you see them in 2019? Let us know! Post in the AirshowStuff Forums or on the AirshowStuff Facebook page and make sure you share pictures after the show!

Schedules often change during the year – for the latest updates please be sure to check our forums!

2019 US Air Force Thunderbirds Airshow Appearance Schedule

February 17: Daytona 500, Daytona Beach, FL (Flyover)

March 3: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, NV (Flyover)
March 14: Creech Appreciation Day, Indian Springs, NV
March 23-24: Thunder and Lightning Over Arizona – Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
March 30-31: Travis AFB Open House – Travis AFB, CA

April 6-7: Heart of Texas Air Show – Waco, TX
April 13-14: OPEN
April 27-28: Wings over Wayne Open House – Seymour Johnson AFB, NC

May 4-5: Keelser AFB, MS
May 11-12: JB Andrews Air Show – JB Andrews, MD
May 18: Kirtland AFB Air Show – Kirtland AFB, NM
May 25-26: Jones Beach Air Show – Jones Beach, NY
May 30: USAF Academy – Colorado Springs, CO

June 1-2: Defenders of Freedom Air Show – Offutt AFB, NE
June 8-9: Fort Wayne Air Show – Fort Wayne, IN
June 15-16: Minnesota Air Spectacular – Mankato, MN
June 22-23: Dayton Air Show – Dayton, OH
June 29-30: OPEN

July 6-7: Mid-summer Break
July 13-14: Rionegro (Medellin), Colombia
July 20-21: Fargo Air Show – Fargo, ND
July 24: Cheyenne Frontier Days – Cheyenne, WY
July 27-28: Milwaukee Air and Water Show – Milwaukee, WI

August 10-11: Abbotsford International Air Show – Abbotsford, BC
August 17-18: Sioux Falls Air Show – Sioux Falls, SD
August 21: Atlantic City Air Show – Atlantic City, NJ
August 24-25: Rochester International Airshow – Rochester, NY
August 31-September 2: Cleveland National Air Show – Cleveland, OH

September 7-8: Grissom Air Reserve Base Air Show – Grissom ARB, IN
September 14-15: National Championship Air Races – Reno, NV
September 21-22: Naval Air Station Oceana Air Show – NAS Oceana, VA
September 28-29: Robins AFB Air Show – Robins AFB, GA

October 5-6: Puerto Rico International Air Show – San Juan, PR
October 12-13: Atlanta Air Show – Hampton, GA
October 19-20: Wings Over Houston Air Show – Houston, TX
October 26-27: Sheppard AFB Air Show – Sheppard AFB, TX

November 2-3: Florida International Air Show – Punta Gorda, FL
November 15-17: Aviation Nation – Nellis AFB, NV

Want to look a little further ahead? We also have a copy of the preliminary 2020 US Air Force Thunderbirds schedule!

Air Force Concludes Investigation Into Fatal Crash Of Thunderbird #4, Releases Report

posted in: Jet Teams | 0

US Air Force Thunderbirds - F-16 Fighting Falcon

The US Air Force has released the crash investigation report for April’s fatal crash of Thunderbird #4, Maj. Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno. Cajun was flying a practice routine with the team near Creech AFB in Nevada when his aircraft impacted the ground.

Very little information about the crash has been made public until now, and the remote location ensured there were few if any civilian witnesses. The report does not hold back, however, and describes in great detail how Del Bagno tragically succumbed to G-induced loss of consciousness, or G-LOC, during a high speed dive and failed to recover from it.

Specifically, the dive was part of the rejoin maneuver following the High Bomb Burst and four-ship crossover. Following the cross, the #4 pilot pulls up into a half loop, then flies down the show line inverted before pulling downward into a Split-S to drop into formation behind the lead aircraft. You can watch a video of the typical #4 rejoin sequence on our Youtube channel.

The report explains that on this particular occasion, Del Bagno flew at a maximum of -2.06 Gs while inverted, before immediately pulling to a peak of 8.56 Gs. It is believed that this quick transition from strong negative to intense positive Gs was too much for even the seasoned fighter pilot to handle. He lost consciousness for an estimated 5 seconds as the aircraft rocketed towards the ground. No attempt at ejection was registered by the aircraft systems and the aircraft impacted at nearly 60 degrees nose down and 90 degrees of bank with a descent rate of near 40,000 feet per minute.

Thunderbird #4 Major Stephen Del Bagno

Blue Angel #6, Capt. Jeff “Kooch” Kuss, was also killed while performing a Split-S about two years before Cajun’s accident. In that case, it was determined that he mistakenly initiated the maneuver lower than required. Following his crash, the Blue Angels removed the Split-S from their takeoff routine, although they do perform the maneuver later in the show.

As for the Thunderbirds, they resumed flying a few weeks after the crash, eventually bringing back former #4 pilot Major Nick “Khan” Krajicek to assume the slot position again. Based on observations at shows following the crash, they do not appear to have significantly changed the rejoin maneuver.

Here is the executive summary of the full 37 page report:

On 4 April 2018, the mishap pilot (MP), flying a F-16CM, tail number (T/N) 91-0413, assigned to the United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the “Thunderbirds,” 57th Wing, Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada (NV), engaged in a routine aerial demonstration training flight at the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) near Creech AFB, NV. During the training flight, at approximately 1029 local time, the mishap aircraft (MA) impacted the ground and fatally injured the MP, without an ejection attempt.

The mishap mission was planned and authorized as a practice of a Thunderbirds aerial demonstration in the south part of the NTTR. The mishap flight was a formation of six F-16CMs (Thunderbirds #1-6), the standard Thunderbirds aerial demonstration flight. Thunderbird #4 was the MA/MP. During the High Bomb Burst Rejoin, an aerial maneuver near the scheduled end of the aerial demonstration training flight, the MP flew the MA for approximately 22 seconds in inverted flight between 5,500 and 5,700 feet above ground level. During this time, the MP experienced a change in force due to acceleration measured in multiples of the acceleration of gravity felt at the earth’s surface (G), between -0.5 to -2.06 G’s. While experiencing -2.06 G’s in inverted flight, the MP initiated a descending half-loop maneuver (Split-S). After five seconds in the Split-S, the MP attained a maximum +8.56 G’s. The MP experienced G-induced loss of consciousness (G-LOC) and absolute incapacitation at the end of that five-second period.

For approximately the next five seconds, the MP remained in a state of absolute incapacitation and made no deliberate flight control inputs as the MA accelerated toward the ground. Approximately one second prior to ground impact, the MP began deliberate flight control inputs as he transitioned from absolute to relative incapacitation. The MA impacted the ground at 57 degrees nose low with 89 degrees of left bank and the MP was fatally injured on impact, without an ejection attempt.

The Accident Investigation Board (AIB) President found by a preponderance of evidence the cause of the mishap was the MP’s G-LOC during the Split-S portion of the High Bomb Burst Rejoin maneuver. Additionally, the AIB President found by a preponderance of evidence two factors substantially contributed to the mishap: (a) the MP’s diminished tolerance to +G’s induced by the physiology of the MP’s exposure to –G’s (“Push-Pull Effect”) and (b) an associated decrease in the effectiveness of the MP’s Anti-G straining maneuver under those conditions.

Thunderbird #4 Killed In F-16 Crash Near Creech AFB

posted in: Jet Teams | 0

Thunderbird #4 Major Stephen

The US Air Force has released the name of the Thunderbird pilot killed in yesterday’s F-16 crash in Nevada. Thunderbird #4, Major Stephen Del Bagno, was killed in the crash that occurred while the team was practicing their airshow routine near Creech AFB. He was in his first of two seasons with the team, which is based at nearby Nellis AFB in Las Vegas. He had over 3,500 flight hours in both civilian and Air Force aircraft.

Here is Maj. Del Bagno’s full bio from the Thunderbirds’ website:
Maj. Stephen Del Bagno is the Slot Pilot for the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, flying the No. 4 jet. He is a 2005 graduate of Utah Valley State University, and commissioned from Officer Training School, Maxwell AFB, Ala. in 2007. Before joining the Air Force, Del Bagno was a civilian flight instructor, corporate pilot, skywriter, and a banner tow pilot. He enjoys snowboarding, water sports and spending time with family and friends. Prior to joining the Thunderbirds, Del Bagno served as an F-35A Evaluator Pilot and Chief of Standardization and Evaluation, 58th Fighter Squadron, Eglin AFB, Fla. He has logged more than 3,500 total flight hours in over 30 different aircraft, with 1,400 hours as an Air Force pilot. Del Bagno is in his first season with the team and hails from Valencia, Calif.

“We are mourning the loss of Major Del Bagno,” said Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing Commander. “He was an integral part of our team and our hearts are heavy with his loss. We ask everyone to provide his family and friends the space to heal during this difficult time.”

Our thoughts are with Maj. Del Bagno’s family and teammates.

This is the first fatal crash for the team since 1982, when the four pilots in the diamond formation were killed after failing to recover from a loop. The famous tragedy became known as the “diamond crash”, and occurred in the same training area as today’s crash.

There have been more recent nonfatal crashes; in 2016 Thunderbird #6 crashed just short of the runway at Peterson AFB in Colorado after the team performed a flyover for the US Air Force Academy graduation ceremony. The pilot ejected safely, and the crash was eventually blamed on a faulty throttle component. The same day, Capt. Jeff Kuss of the US Navy Blue Angels demonstration team was killed in a crash while practicing for an airshow in Smyrna, TN.

In 2017, Thunderbird #8 skidded off a soaked runway while landing at the Dayton Airshow in Ohio. The flight was not part of the airshow; it was a “familiarization flight” with a member of the team’s maintenance crew in the back seat. Both pilot and passenger survived, though the pilot was injured.

Please visit our forums for further discussion on the crash and what it means for the airshow season.

Thunderbird F-16 Crashes In Nevada; Pilot Killed

posted in: Jet Teams | 7

US Air Force Thunderbirds - F-16 Fighting Falcon

UPDATE: The name of the pilot has been released.

ORIGINAL POST: An F-16 Fighting Falcon jet belonging to the US Air Force Thunderbirds crashed Wednesday inside the military’s Nevada Test and Training Range outside of Nellis AFB. The pilot of the jet was killed, however, the name has not been released yet pending next of kin notification. We expect to hear the name on Thursday. An investigation is being conducted into the cause of the mishap.

The team was performing an airshow practice routine near Creech AFB in Indian Springs, NV when the crash occurred. The Thunderbirds are based at nearby Nellis AFB, which sits on the outskirts of Las Vegas, NV. They opened their 2018 airshow season just a week and a half ago after canceling a couple of appearances to allow extra training time for their new commanding officer.

This is the first fatal crash for the team since 1982, when the four pilots in the diamond formation were killed after failing to recover from a loop. The famous incident became known as the “diamond crash”, and occurred in the same training area as today’s crash.

There have been more recent nonfatal crashes; in 2016 Thunderbird #6 crashed just short of the runway at Peterson AFB in Colorado after the team performed a flyover for the US Air Force Academy graduation ceremony. The pilot ejected safely, and the crash was eventually blamed on a faulty throttle component. The same day, Capt. Jeff Kuss of the US Navy Blue Angels demonstration team was killed in a crash while practicing for an airshow in Smyrna, TN.

In 2017, Thunderbird #8 skidded off a soaked runway while landing at the Dayton Airshow in Ohio. The flight was not part of the airshow; it was a “familiarization flight” with a member of the team’s maintenance crew in the back seat. Both pilot and passenger survived, though the pilot was injured.

There are few details available at this point, but we will update you once the pilot’s name is released. In the mean time, be sure to check our forums for further discussion on the crash and what it means for the airshow season. The team’s participation at the March Air Reserve Base “The March Field Air & Space Expo” has been cancelled.

Has The 2018 Aviation Nation Airshow At Nellis AFB Been Cancelled?

posted in: Airshows, Schedules | 15

USAF Thunderbird F-16 Fighting Falcon - Aviation Nation Airshow

UPDATE: The show has been confirmed as canceled in 2018.

ORIGINAL POST: Rumors are swirling that the 2018 Aviation Nation airshow at Nellis AFB has been canceled after it was removed from both the ICAS and USAF Thunderbird 2018 airshow schedules. The show was previously scheduled for November 10-11 on both.

This is a stunning development for one of the best military airshows in the country. Nellis is the home base of the Thunderbirds, and serves as the home town end to their season each year. The show previously canceled in 2015, but that was due to runway construction. This may be the beginning of a move to hold the show every two years instead of annually. Another interesting note is that the Thunderbirds’ 2019 schedule now has Nellis scheduled one week later than originally planned.

We are working to confirm this news, and will provide any further information we get. In the mean time, join the discussion and add your own info on our forums!

USAF Thunderbirds Announce New Commanding Officer For 2018 Season

posted in: Jet Teams | 0

US Air Force Thunderbirds

The US Air Force Thunderbirds have a new commanding officer! The commander of Air Combat Command, Gen. Mike Holmes, has selected Lt. Col. Kevin “Lowen” Walsh to lead the team in 2018. Lt. Col. Walsh was already serving as the interim CO of the famed demonstration squadron following the unexpected dismissal of the previous team leader, Lt. Col. Jason Heard late last month.

USAF Thunderbirds - Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh

Walsh served as Thunderbird #7, the team’s Operations Officer, during the 2016 and 2017 seasons and was due to leave the team this winter as his tour concluded. He will now take over the second year of Lt. Col. Heard’s planned two year tour before a new “Boss” is selected in 2019.

We welcome Lt. Col. Walsh (back) to the team and look forward to seeing him fly in 2018!

Here is the full text of the Air Force press release:

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – The commander of Air Combat Command, Gen. Mike Holmes, has officially selected the officer who will lead the United States Air Force Thunderbirds for the 2018 demonstration season.

Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh will become Thunderbird No. 1, the squadron’s commander and lead pilot. As the twofold duty title implies, his responsibilities will include commanding a force of more than 130 enlisted personnel and 11 commissioned officers assigned to the Thunderbirds, along with leading all demonstration flights.

Walsh, a 2002 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., just completed his second season with the team as Thunderbird No. 7, the squadron’s Operations Officer.

“Kevin’s extensive flying experience and rapport within the Thunderbirds makes him a perfect fit to command the team,” said Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing Commander. “I have full faith he will lead the team through a successful 2018 show season.”

Walsh is a graduate of the USAF Weapons School and has logged over 2,600 hours of flight time with more than 500 hours of combat pilot experience.

2018 will mark the Thunderbirds’ 65th season as the Air Force’s premier jet demonstration team, entrusted with the vital mission to recruit, retain and inspire across the nation while representing the outstanding men and women serving in the United States Air Force around the world.

USAF Thunderbirds 2019 Preliminary Airshow Schedule Released

posted in: Jet Teams, Schedules | 19

US Air Force Thunderbirds

Here is the preliminary 2019 airshow schedule for the US Air Force Thunderbirds! This schedule has been released on a preliminary basis only, and will likely see notable changes. Please make sure to check back with us in December of 2018 when an updated 2019 schedule is released!

Preliminary 2019 Appearance Schedule – US Air Force Thunderbirds

February 17: Daytona 500, Daytona Beach, FL (Flyover)

March 3: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, NV (Flyover)
March 14: Creech Appreciation Day, Indian Springs, NV
March 23-24: Thunder and Lightning Over Arizona – Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
March 30-31: Gulf Coast Salute Air Show – Tyndall AFB, FL

April 6-7: Heart of Texas Air Show – Waco, TX
April 13-14: OPEN Salute to the Military Air Show – Biloxi, MS
April 27-28: Wings over Wayne Open House – Seymour Johnson AFB, NC

May 4-5: Keelser AFB, MS
May 11-12: JB Andrews Air Show – JB Andrews, MD
May 18: Kirtland AFB Air Show – Kirtland AFB, NM
May 25-26: Jones Beach Air Show – Jones Beach, NY
May 30: USAF Academy – Colorado Springs, CO

June 1-2: Defenders of Freedom Air Show – Offutt AFB, NE
June 8-9: Fort Wayne Air Show – Fort Wayne, IN
June 15-16: Minnesota Air Spectacular – Mankato, MN
June 22-23: Dayton Air Show – Dayton, OH
June 29-30: OPEN

July 6-7: Mid-summer Break
July 13-14: Rionegro (Medellin), Colombia
July 20-21: Fargo Air Show – Fargo, ND
July 24: Cheyenne Frontier Days – Cheyenne, WY
July 27-28: Milwaukee Air and Water Show – Milwaukee, WI

August 10-11: Abbotsford International Air Show – Abbotsford, BC
August 17-18: Sioux Falls Air Show – Sioux Falls, SD
August 21: Atlantic City Air Show – Atlantic City, NJ
August 24-25: Rochester International Airshow – Rochester, NY
August 31-September 2: Cleveland National Air Show – Cleveland, OH

September 7-8: Grissom Air Reserve Base Air Show – Grissom ARB, IN
September 14-15: National Championship Air Races – Reno, NV
September 21-22: Naval Air Station Oceana Air Show – NAS Oceana, VA
September 28-29: Robins AFB Air Show – Robins AFB, GA

October 5-6: Puerto Rico International Air Show – San Juan, PR
October 12-13: Atlanta Air Show – Hampton, GA
October 19-20: Wings Over Houston Air Show – Houston, TX
October 26-27: Sheppard AFB Air Show – Sheppard AFB, TX

November 2-3: Florida International Air Show – Punta Gorda, FL
November 9-10: Aviation Nation – Nellis AFB, NV

Again, this schedule is for 2019. If you’re looking for 2018 airshow appearances, check out USAF Thunderbirds 2018 Airshow Schedule Released

USAF Thunderbirds 2018 Airshow Schedule Released

posted in: Jet Teams, Schedules | 44

US Air Force Thunderbirds

Here is the 2018 airshow schedule for the US Air Force Thunderbirds! Will you see them in 2018? Let us know! Post in the AirshowStuff Forums or on the AirshowStuff Facebook page and make sure you share pictures after the show!

Schedules often change during the year – for the latest updates please be sure to check our forums!

2018 Appearance Schedule – US Air Force Thunderbirds

March 10-11: OPEN (Likely extra training)
March 17-18: OPEN (Likely extra training)
March 24-25: Melbourne Air & Space Show – Melbourne, FL

April 7-8: March Field Air & Space Expo – March ARB, CA (Performance canceled due to safety stand down)
April 14-15: Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In & Expo – Lakeland, FL (Performance canceled due to safety stand down)
April 21-22: Wings Over Columbus – Columbus AFB, MS (Performance canceled due to safety stand down)
April 28: Charleston Air Expo – JB Charleston, SC

May 5-6: Fort Lauderdale Air Show – Fort Lauderdale, FL
May 12-13: Laughlin AFB Open House – Laughlin AFB, TX
May 19-20: AirPower Over Hampton Roads – Langley AFB, VA
May 23: U.S. Air Force Academy Graduation – Colorado Springs, CO
May 26-27: Cannon AFB Air Show – Cannon AFB, NM

June 2-3: Gunfighter Skies Air Show – Mountain Home AFB, ID
June 9-10: Thunder Of Niagara Airshow – Niagara Falls, NY
June 16-17: OC Air Show – Ocean City, MD
June 23-24: The Utah Air Show – Hill AFB, UT
June 30-July 1: Arctic Thunder Air Show – Elmendorf AFB, AK

July 7-8: Duluth Air and Aviation Expo – Duluth, MN
July 14-15: The Great New England Air Show – Westover ARB, MA
July 21-22: Milwaukee Air & Water Show – Milwaukee, WI
July 25: Cheyenne Frontier Days – Cheyenne, WY
July 28-29: Westmoreland County Air Show – Latrobe, PA

August 4-5: Minot AFB Air Show – Minot, ND
August 18-19: 60th Chicago Air & Water Show – Chicago, IL
August 22: Thunder Over the Boardwalk – Atlantic City, NJ
August 25-26: Thunder Over Michigan – Ypsilanti, MI

September 1-2: Canadian International Air Show – Toronto, ON
September 8-9: McConnell AFB Open House – McConnell AFB, KS
September 15-16: New York Air Show – New Windsor, NY
September 22-23: California Capital Air Show – Sacramento, CA
September 29-30: California International Air Show – Salinas, CA

October 6-7: Maryland Fleet Week & Air Show – Baltimore, MD
October 13-14: Fort Worth Alliance Air Show – Fort Worth, TX
October 20-21: Breitling Huntington Beach Air Show – Huntington Beach, CA
October 27-28: Thunder Over the Rock – Little Rock AFB, AR

November 3-4: Wings Over Homestead – Homestead ARB, FL
November 10-11: Aviation Nation – Nellis AFB, NV

Want to look a little further ahead? We also have a copy of the preliminary 2019 US Air Force Thunderbirds schedule!

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.

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