NELLIS AFB, NV — The high speed passes and precision flight of the Air Force Thunderbirds begins in three weeks as they headline top air show locations across America.
The Thunderbirds kicked-off their 2020 season last weekend with a flyover of the Daytona 500 race. The six-jet team will spend the remaining weeks practicing six-days a week before traveling to their first air show.
America’s Ambassadors in Blue are scheduled to perform at 35 locations across the United States, including one stop in Canada. The team’s first public flight demonstration will take place over Del Rio, Texas, at Laughlin AFB on March 14.
“I can feel the excitement right now,” Thunderbirds advance pilot Maj. Jason Markzon said. “We’re going to kick it up a notch, maybe ten notches, when we get to Laughlin in March.”
Last summer, the Thunderbirds selected three new demonstration pilots for the next two seasons. Maj. Trevor Aldridge will fly as the new left wing pilot, Capt. Zane Taylor will fly as the slot pilot, and Capt. Kyle Oliver has been selected as the new opposing solo pilot.
The three will join second season pilots, leader Lt. Col. John Caldwell, right wing pilot Capt. Michael Brewer, and lead solo Maj. Michelle Curran. A demonstration pilot typically serves two seasons with the Thunderbirds.
“Growing up, the Thunderbirds inspired me to become a pilot,” Capt. Taylor expressed. “I am hoping to inspire the next generation of boys and girls to do the same.” Taylor added as a youngster, he hung a Thunderbirds poster on his bedroom wall.
As the pilots practice their tight formation flights, the Thunderbirds maintainers and logistics personnel have been busy, too. The teams are working from sunrise to sunset during winter training in order to begin their 67th anniversary season on time.
The backbone of the Thunderbirds is the team’s nearly 120 enlisted airmen, each trained to handle aircraft maintenance, flight equipment, and logistics. Each enlisted Thunderbird serves three to four years with the squadron.
“Our mission is to recruit, retain and inspire,” Maj. Markzon explained. “Our job is to just go and really focus on the kids and talk to them about the opportunities that the Air Force has to offer and try to inspire the next generation.”
Air Force Thunderbirds 2020 Air Show Schedule:
Mar 14: Laughlin AFB, Del Rio, Texas – Fiesta Of Flight
Mar 21-22: Luke AFB, Arizona – Luke Days Air and Space Expo
Mar 28-29: March AFB (Calif.) Field Air and Space Expo: Thunder Over the Empire
April 4-5: Lakeland, Florida – Sun-N-Fun Fly In and Expo
April 18-19: Maxwell AFB, Alabama – Beyond the Horizon Air and Space Show
April 25-26: Columbus AFB, Mississippi – Wings Over Columbus
May 2-3: Fort Lauderdale, Florida Fort Lauderdale Air Show
May 9-10: Beale AFB, Calif. – Wings Over Recce Town, USA
May 16-17: Shaw AFB, South Carolina – Shaw Air and Space Expo
May 23-24: Miami Beach, Florida – Miami Beach Air and Sea Show
May 28: Colorado Springs, Colorado – USAFA Graduation Fly Over
June 6-7: Salinas, Calif. – California International Airshow
June 13-14: Ocean City, Maryland – OC Air Show
June 20-21: North Kingstown, Rhode Island RI ANG Open House and Airshow
June 27-28: Hill AFB, Utah – Warriors Over Wasatch Air and Space Show
July 4-5: Battle Creek, Michigan – Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival
July 11-12: JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska – Arctic Thunder Open House
July 18-19: Duluth, Minnisota – Duluth Air and Aviation Expo
July 22: F.E Warren AFB, Wyoming – Cheyenne Frontier Days
July 25-26: Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota – Ellsworth Air and Space Show
August 1-2: Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota Air Show
August 15-16: Chicago, Illinois – Chicago Air and Water Show
August 22-23: Avoca, PA – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Armed Forces Airshow
August 26: Atlantic City, New Jersey – Thunder Over The Boardwalk
August 29-30: New Windsor, New York – New York Air Show
September 5-6: Gardner, Kansas – Kansas City Air Show
September 12-13: London (Ontario), Canada – Airshow London
September 19-20: Huntington Beach, Calif. – Pacific Airshow
October 3-4: Minden, Nevada – Aviation Roundup Airshow
October 10-11: Edwards AFB, Calif. – Aerospace Valley Air and Space Show
October 17-18: Fort Worth, Texas – Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show
October 24-25: Rome, Georgia – Wings Over North Georgia
October 31-November 1: Sanford, Fla – Central Florida Air and Space Show
November 7-8: New Orleans, Louisiana – NASJRB New Orleans Air Show
November 14-15: San Antonio, Texas – JBSA Air and Space Show
(Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)