That's right, the 68th birthday of my old outfit, the United States Air Force. While I have some issues with the current leadership of the Air Force, the vast majority of those currently wearing the blue suit make me damn proud to have been an airman. Those men and women get it done, sometimes in spite of the higher ups!
So this month's Flyby is dedicated to the men and women of the United States Air Force via their official representatives, the United States Air Force Thunderbirds!
Now while the Air Force itself is older than I, by six years, I am actually older than the Thunderbirds, by 17 days. For what it's worth, the "official" name of the Thunderbirds is the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron. They began life in the southwest at Luke AFB, the nickname of The Thunderbirds was influenced by the native folklore and culture in Arizona. (Though truth be told, the legend of the thunder bird was prevalent in many tribes including those around the Great Lakes, the Great Plains and in the Pacific Northwest.)
The first time I saw these magnificent pilots they were flying the Hun, the F-100 Super Sabre. A most magnificent bird. I've seen the Birds in the T-38 and the F-16 as well. Oddly enough, I never saw them when they were flying the F-4, the aircraft I am often associated with, having worked on that bird for 7 odd years. (Odd as in roughly, not odd as in strange. Though come to think of it, both definitions fit. More or less.)
So what have the mighty Thunderbirds flown in their 62 years of existence? Picture time!
|The Thunderbirds flew the F-86 Thunderjet/Thunderstreak from their inception in 1953 until June of 1956. (Source)|
|The Thunderbirds flying the F-84 Thunderstreak, note the swept wings of this later variant of the F-84. (Source)|
|The F-100 Super Sabre (the Hun) was used from 1956 to 1968, with the exception of 1964 (see below). (Source)|
|The Thunderbirds flew the F-105 Thunderchief, the mighty Thud, for only six shows in 1963. (Finding a Thud in Thunderbird colors is hard! Source)|
The Thunderbirds' switch to the F-105 lasted only six shows. They switched back to the Hun after a catastrophic structural failure of the No. 2 aircraft during a pitch-up maneuver that resulted in the death of Capt Gene Devlin at Hamilton Air Force Base. (See here for the full story and a fine tribute to Captain Devlin.)
|The Thunderbirds and the mighty F-4E Phantom II. This was their ride from 1969 to 1973. (Source)|
|The Thunderbirds flying the T-38 Talon. This trainer aircraft was chosen due to the oil "crisis" of 1973. Only six shows were flown that year in the Phantom. The Talons were used from 1974 to 1983. (Source)|
|The Thunderbirds now fly the beautiful, highly maneuverable and deadly F-16 Fighting Falcon. Known more appropriately as the Viper, she's every bit as deadly as her namesake! (Source)|
The Thunderbirds have their own website here and their own YouTube channel here. I highly recommend both.
Now what's a post about a flight demonstration team without a video (or two)?
A pretty lame one I'd argue!