NELLIS AFB, NV — The Air Force Thunderbirds have selected six new pilots and officers recently for the 2020 and 2021 air show seasons.
The Thunderbirds will rotate new pilots into aircraft 2, 4, and 6 this November as the squadron prepares to begin training for next season. Air Force officials also selected a new operations officer, executive officer, and public affairs officer.
“This year’s applicant pool featured some of the very finest Air Force leaders who showcased a remarkable level of skill and motivation,” Thunderbird 1 pilot Lt. Col. John Caldwell said on Tuesday. “This was an incredibly difficult choice, but I’m confident we chose the right team to carry on the Thunderbird mission and showcase America’s Air Force.”
Maj. Trevor “Dozen” Aldridge will fill the spot as the team’s new left wing pilot as Thunderbird 2. As he flies in formation as a part of the four-aircraft diamond, Maj. Aldridge will fly as cloase as three feet apart from Thunderbird 1.
Capt. Zane “Strobe” Taylor was selected as the new slot pilot for 2020. Taylor will fly in the Thunderbird diamond formation behind aircraft 1 and between the two wingmen.
“Growing up, the Thunderbirds inspired me to become a pilot,” Capt. Tayor said with an excited smile. “I’ve had a Thunderbird 4 poster on my wall my entire life. So, I am hoping to inspire the next generation of boys and girls to do the same.”
Capt. Kyle “Gumbo” Oliver will soar as Thunderbird 6, the new opposing solo, for next season. Current Thunderbird 6, Maj. Michelle “Mace” Curran, will move up as the new lead solo in Thunderbird 5.
“The Dayton airshow in 2005 changed my life. It was that day watching the Thunderbirds fly that I knew my childhood dream of flying fast jets was not some phase I was meant to grow out of,” Capt. Oliver stated. “I’m beyond excited and deeply humbled to say that I’ve been chosen as the new Thunderbird 6.”
Maj. Kevin “Gator” DiFalco will become as the new operations officer for the team. He will ensure the air space is cleared for each Thunderbirds demonstration, and will communicate with the demonstration pilots during each air show flight.
Current Air Force Air Combat Command Capt. Katherine Moorkamp will move to Nellis AFB this autumn to assume the role as executive officer. She will lead the executive support staff in charge of the Thunderbirds training and force support, and manage the team’s budget for the commander.
Capt. Remoshay Nelson has been selected as the team’s new public affairs officer. Capt. Nelson’s work behind the scenes will appear on social media and in the local and national media during each air show.
“The way we choose pilots is everyone submits an application then we go through a filter process where we bring our semi-finalists out to interview in front of the team and with our Wing Commander,” Thunderbird’s advance pilot and narrator Maj. Jason Markzon said. “Eventually, we chose which pilots will fit best with the team.”
(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)