Friday, September 18, 2015

The Friday Flyby - September 2015

And today is...


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!


  1. Happy Birthday!
    Hey Sarge, not sure if you read this Dude, he is sometimes over the top politically, but I thought this post would tickle your history bone

    1. I do go there from time to time. That was an excellent post. Not sure of its veracity as the Romans didn't use "war" chariots. Those were for the arena. Also Roman roads were paved so there wouldn't be much in the way of wheel ruts. The Romans, unlike the DOT, built their roads to last. But it could well be true. Stranger things have happened. (Russian rail gauge is wider, perhaps because they used the troika. Heh.)

      Did get a chuckle from that post though.

    2. I thought the actual history of this might have been manufactured and you would set it straight, still a fun post with an interesting point of how history can affect us in unusual ways.

    3. I will check out that story. It did give me a laugh.

  2. Great post Sarge and Happy Birthday.

    Still amazes me that both the Blues and the Birds flew Phantoms. Love the black tail on the slot jet. No one was afraid of a little carbon back then.

    "SOLOS RULE!" on the boards. I like that. Says a lot about a lot.

  3. First saw them at Everett Field in Washington and was in awe. And, Happy Birthday Zoomie!

  4. Replies
    1. Actually the Blues were my first love, saw them before I saw the Thunderbirds. They were flying the Grumman F11F-1 Tiger when I saw them the first time.

      Never saw them fly the Phantom either. The Tiger, the Scooter and then the Hornet.

      You never forget your first.

  5. Great post, thanks for the pictures. Happy Birthday to USAF! I still think about those years every day. Curiously, I rarely think about the airline driving business. Espirit de corps, I guess.

    1. Thanks Dave. I remember the Air Force fondly. I don't like what they're doing to it these days.

  6. I thought they were at their best in the Phantom, big, muscular and loud! I've known quite a few of them personally, with one exception, Col Dan Cherry, they all thought their fecal matter was not odoriferous. Col Cherry was a great guy, talented fighter pilot and a joy to fly on his wing in weather. SMOOOOOOTHHH!

  7. Thunderbirds SAALUTE!

    Trivia question: Who was the only Thurderbird member to ever lead the team in three different aircraft?

    1. My Google-Fu is weak today (just got back from New Hampshire) do tell us the answer.

  8. Happy Birthday USAF! A fine service that, sans the weapons, would just be an expensive flying club. ;-)


  9. Happy Birthday Air Force.

    That was a very shiny Phantom.


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