USAF Thunderbirds Have Quiet Air Show Season

2013 marks the 60th anniversary of the famed Thunderbirds team, the air demonstration squadron of the U. S. Air Force. While this would normally be air show season for the 12-man group, the shows for the rest of the year were canceled due to sequestration, as of March 1. Two weeks ago the group was allotted some training hours to take to the skies, but they won’t be expected to be performing their famed shows again until possibly sometime next year.

How much do you know about the USAF Thunderbirds?

Named after mythical birds mentioned in Native American lore, the Thunderbirds were formed in 1953. They’ve called Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada home since 1974. In the squadron’s 60 year history, 325 Thunderbird pilots have flown in front of more than 300 million people. They don’t just perform in the U. S., either. Nicknamed “America’s Ambassadors in Blue,” the team has performed all over the world, including a European Goodwill Tour in 2007.

Officers joining the squadron sign up for two-year stints, during which they spend hours of practice time learning the iconic routines. The routine is action packed, and it shows off the ability of both the officers and the F-16C Fighting Falcons they fly. Some routines have the pilots flying as close as 18 inches from each other! There are eight formations used during the show, and the signature rolls and loops are performed at speed of up to 700 mph.

Missing the adrenaline packed Thunderbirds show? Check out YouTube for a variety of Thunderbirds videos including a video of the entire hour-long show. Or drive your own Thunderbird home thanks to Ford. They recently unveiled a USAF Thunderbirds Edition 2014 Ford Mustang GT. The edition has undergone performance enhancements and sports a paint job that mimics the design seen on the Thunderbirds’ F-16Cs. The car will be put up for auction on Aug. 1 to benefit the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagle group.

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