High performance flight demonstrations by the Air Force Thunderbirds will return to the skies in a few weeks as the elite pilots and service personnel prepare for the squadron’s historic international air show season.
Winter training is underway with the Air Force’s flight demonstration team practicing and studying formations aboard their F-16 jets, and in the classroom in preparation for the new season. The team of six pilots are scheduled to perform their traditional first public flight over the Daytona 500 race in February.
Capt. Michael Brewer has taken the reigns as the Thunderbirds new right wing pilot. Capt. Brewer, who flies under the call sign “Thorny”, is excited to begin training and to perform with his new squadron.
“It’s going to be amazing,” Brewer said in a recent Air Force release. “Being a Thunderbird allows you to inspire tens of thousands of people at an air show. And we get to do that several times a year.”
Brewer was based at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C. where he served as an F-15 Strike Eagle pilot for nearly two years prior to joining the Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds are scheduled to perform at Seymour Johnson in April.
The Thunderbirds are a force of over 120 enlisted airmen and 11 officers, men and women working together to showcase the role of the United States Air Force. The team recently welcomed four new pilots and a medical doctor for the new season.
The squadron will highlight the season with their return to Dayton, Ohio. The Thunderbirds were forced to cancel their June 2017 appearance when one of their jets crashed on landing at Dayton International Airport during inclement weather. The two crew members survived, however the $29 million F-16D was totaled.
America’s Ambassadors in Blue are led by new team commander Lt. Col. John “Brick” Caldwell. Thunderbirds 2 through 8 are pilots Capt. Will “Boar” Graeff (left wing), Capt. Michael “Thorny” Brewer (right wing), Major Whit “Skate” Collins (slot), Major Blaine “Spider” Jones (solo); Capt. Michelle “Mace” Curran (opposing solo), Major Eric “Miami” Gorney (operations officer), and Major Jason “Flack” Markzon (advance pilot and narrator).
Curran becomes only the fourth female pilot in Thunderbirds history and only their second female solo pilot in 66 years. Mace arrived at Nellis, AFB in November having spent one year as an F-16 instructor pilot at the 301st Fighter Wing in Fort Worth.
“There are so many strong women who have paved the way for me to be able to do what I do today,” Capt. Curran said in an Air Force interview. “From the WASPs in WWII, to the first female fighter pilot in the Air Force, Jeannie Leavitt. They have broken barriers and done great things.”
Updated 2019 Thunderbirds Schedule:
February 17: Daytona 500, Daytona Beach, FL Flyover (2:24 p.m.)
March 3: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Nevada (Flyover)
March 23/24: Davis-Monthan AFB, Thunder and Lightning Over Arizona
March 30/31: Travis AFB, California, Thunder Over the Bay
April 6/7: Waco, Texas – Heart of Texas Air Show
April 13/14: Open Date
April 27/28: Seymour Johnson AFB, NC Wings over Wayne Open House
May 4/5: Keesler, AFB, Mississippi Thunder Over the Sound
May 11/12: JB Andrews, Maryland JB Andrews Air Show
May 18: Kirtland AFB, New Mexico Air and Space Fiesta
May 25/26: Wantagh, New York Jones Beach Air Show
May 30: USAF Academy, Colorado
June 1/2: Offutt AFB, Nebraska Defenders of Freedom Air Show
June 8/9: Fort Wayne (IN) Air Show
June 15/16: Mankato, Minnesota Air Spectacular
June 22/23: Dayton (OH) Air Show
June 29/30: North Kingstown, Rhode Island
July 13/14: Rionegro (Medellin), Colombia, SA
July 20-21: Fargo (ND) Air Show
July 24: Cheyenne (WY) Frontier Days
July 27/28: Milwaukee (WI) Air and Water Show
August 10/11: Abbotsford (BC) International Air Show
August 17/18: Sioux Falls (SD) Air Show
August 21: Atlantic City (NJ) Air Show
August 24/25: Rochester (NY) International Air Show
August 31-Sept. 2: Cleveland (OH) National Air Show
September 7/8: Grissom Air Reserve Base (IN) Air Show
September 14/15: Reno, Nevada National Championship Air Races
September 21/22: Naval Air Station Oceana (VA) Air Show
September 28/29: Robins AFB (GA) Air Show
October 5/6: San Juan, Puerto Rico International Air Show
October 12/13: Hampton, Georgia Atlanta Air Show
October 19/20: Wings Over Houston (TX) Air Show
October 26/27: Sheppard AFB (TX) Air Show
November 2/3: Punta Gorda, Florida International Air Show
November 15-17: Nellis AFB, Nevada Aviation Nation
(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)