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Air Force Thunderbirds return this weekend over Hampton Roads

The Air Force Thunderbirds are ready to return to air show performances beginning this week. (USAF)

The Air Force Thunderbirds are back and will resume their air show schedule this week beginning with the AirPower Over Hampton Roads in Virginia, the squadron announced on Monday.

The long awaited announcement comes nearly six weeks following the loss of Thunderbird 4 slot pilot Major Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno, who crashed during a training exercise on April 4 near Las Vegas. Two weeks later, veteran Thunderbird slot pilot Major Nick “Khan” Krajicek, who had served with the team in 2016 and 2017, was announced as the new slot pilot.

“The Thunderbirds look forward to safely resuming public shows at Air Power over Hampton Roads,” Lt. Col. Kevin “Lowen” Walsh, Thunderbird commander and pilot said on Monday. “It’s been challenging to get us to this point, but the team is resilient, focused, and ready to get back to our mission of recruiting, retaining and inspiring.”

Each of the six pilots of the Thunderbirds perform a nearly 45 minute flight demonstration aboard the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The pilots, lead by Lt. Col. Walsh in Thunderbird 1, perform nearly 40 maneuvers demonstrating the diversity of the tactical fighter both in high speed and together in a diamond formation.

Following an intensive review of the entire Thunderbirds squadron last week, Gen. Mike Holmes, Commander of Air Combat Command, felt the Thunderbirds were ready to continue with their 65th anniversary season.

The Thunderbirds six F-16 jets will travel this week to perform above Hampton Roads, Virginia. (USAF)

“We are extremely grateful for the support, faith, and confidence of our senior Air Force leadership as we prepare to showcase our United States Air Force to the public once more,” Walsh added. “As we hit the road, we’ll carry on our wingman’s legacy with pride.”

Major Krajicek has logged over 3,410 flight hours as an Army and Air Force pilot, including over 650 hours of combat experience in the air. He has piloted the UH-60 Blackhawks in the Army, and currently serves as an F-16C/D Fighting Falcon instructor pilot.

The emotional two-day air show this weekend at Joint Base Langley-Eustis will not only feature the Thunderbirds each day, the F-22 Raptor, GEICO Skytypers Airshow Team, and top aerobatic performers will also perform. There will also be a special missing man formation flown in honor of Maj. Del Bagno.

There base will host several top performers beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, including the F-22 and several top warbirds. Gates will open on Friday at 5 p.m. for the evening show, and open on Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. Admission is free to the public.

“We’re especially excited about the return of the Thunderbirds as this will be our first co-appearance this season,” GEICO Skytypers Flight Leader Larry Arken told moments following the official announcement. “As an integral part of the air show comunity, their return adds an element of excitement to the AirPower Over Hampton Roads.”

Three days following Hampton Roads, the Thunderbirds will perform a special fly over of the Air Force Acadmy’s graduation ceremony in Colorado.

The Thunderbirds’ 2018 schedule:

May 19-20: Langley AFB, Virginia – “AirPower Over Hampton Roads”

May 26-27: Cannon AFB, New Mexico – “Cannon AFB Air Show”

June 2-3: Mountain Home AFB, Idaho – “Gunfighter Skies 2018 Air Show”

June 9-10: Niagara Falls ARS, New York – “Thunder Over Niagara”

June 16-17: Ocean City, Maryland – “OC Air Show”

June 23-24: Hill AFB, Utah – “The Utah Air Show”

June 30-1 July: JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska – “Arctic Thunder Air Show”

July 7-8: Duluth, Minnesota – “Duluth Air and Aviation Expo”

July 14-15: Westover ARB, Massachusetts – “The Great New England Air Show”

July 21-22: Milwaukee, Wisconsin – “Milwaukee Air & Water Show”

July 25: Cheyenne, Wyoming – “Frontier Days Air Show”

July 28-29: Latrobe, Pennsylvania – “Westmoreland County Air Show”

August 4: Minot AFB, North Dakota – “Minot AFB Air Show”

August 18-19: Chicago, Illinois – “60th Chicago Air & Water Show”

August 22: Atlantic City, New Jersey – “Thunder over the Boardwalk”

August 25-26: Ypsilanti, Michigan – “Thunder Over Michigan Air Show”

September 1-3: Toronto, Canada – “Canadian International Air Show”

September 8-9: McConnell AFB, Kansas – “McConnell AFB Open House”

September 15-16: New Windsor, New York – “New York Air Show”

September 22-23: Mather, California – “California Capital Air Show”

September 29-30: Salinas, California – “California International Airshow”

October 6-7: Baltimore, Maryland – “Maryland Fleet Week and Air Show”

October 13-14: Fort Worth, Texas – “Fort Worth Alliance Air Show”

October 20-21: Huntington Beach, Calif. – “Breitling Huntington Beach Air Show”

October 27-28: Little Rock AFB, Arkansas – “Thunder Over the Rock”

November 3-4: Homestead ARB, Florida – “Wings Over Homestead”

(Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and science. Follow his updates on social media via @Military_Flight.)

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Charles Atkeison

Written by Charles Atkeison

Charles A Atkeison is a long time aerospace journalist having covered both military and civilian aviation, plus 30 space shuttle launches from Cape Canaveral. He has produced multimedia aerospace content for CNN, London's Sky News, radio, print, and the web for twenty years. From flying with his father at age 5 to soaring as a VIP recently with the Navy's Blue Angels and USAF Thunderbirds, Charles continues to enjoy all aspects of flight.

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