Watch: Thunderbirds Crush Routine In F-4 Phabulous Phantom

The Film “Once A Thunderbird” Captures The Team’s Days of Maximum Thunder And Power

Official US Air Force Photograph

McDonnell Douglas and the United States Air Force (USAF) produced the film “Once a Thunderbird” during the early 1970s when the team was flying the Phabulous McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II. When The Thunderbirds transitioned to the F-4E in 1969 changes to the show routine were required to keep the performance close to show center because the F-4Es were so much more powerful than the Team’s previous mount, the North American F-100D Super Saber. White polyurethane paint was adopted in order to give the F-4Es an appealing uniform color. Enjoy this look at the power of The Thunderbirds Phlying their F-4E Phantom IIs uploaded to YouTube by PeriscopeFilm.

Official US Air Force Photograph

Thunderbirds F-4s were short-lived

The Thunderbirds only flew the F-4E for four seasons between 1969 and 1973. They transitioned to the Northrop T-38 Talon next. The team first flew straight-winged Republic F-84G Thunderjets, followed by swept-winged Republic F-84F Thunderstreaks. North American F-100C Super Sabers were the Team’s next jets, followed by a short stint in Republic F-105B Thunderchiefs before switching back to F-100s, albeit the D model. After their days in the F-4E and T-38 the team transitioned to the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, which they still fly today.

Photo courtesy Boeing

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Bill Walton

Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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