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.
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.
BONUS: Here’s a second Phantom-era Thunderbirds promo film: Ambassadors in Blue. Enjoy!