Air Combat Command and the Thunderbirds have announced new pilots who will be joining the team for the 2018 demonstration season. The left wing, slot and opposing solo positions will have new pilots when the team takes to the skies in 2018.
Flying Thunderbird #2 will be Capt. William Graeff. Currently assigned to the 88th Fighter Training Squadron at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, Graeff replaces Maj. Ryan Bodenheimer on the Left Wing of the Diamond formation.
The Slot position will be filled by Capt. Stephen Del Bango of the 58th Fighter Squadron, stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Capt Del Bagno’s selection is unique, as he is the first F-35 pilot to be selected to serve on the team. He replaces Maj. Nick Krajicek.
Capt. Matthew Kimmel of the 79th Fighter Squadron, stationed at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina will be the new Opposing Solo, #6 for the team. Maj. White Collins, the current Opposing Solo for the 2017 show season will move to the Lead Solo position (#5), replacing Maj. Alex Turner.
Other new officers on the 2018 team include:
Thunderbird #7 – Maj Eric Gorney. He will serve as the squadron’s operations officer.
Thunderbird #10- Capt Lauren Venturini. She will serve as the squadron’s maintenance officer.
Thunderbird #12- Maj. Raymond Geoffroy. He will serve as the squadron’s public affairs officer.
There are twelve officer positions with the USAF Thunderbirds team, and members serve two-year tours of duty. In 2018, Thunderbird # 1, 3, 6, 8, and 9 will be replaced.