U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds Best of the Best

By Forrest Saunders, KCRG-TV9

WATERLOO, Iowa — What does it take to fly with the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds? A lot of experience.

According to the group’s operations officer, Major Tyler Ellison, Thunderbirds pilots need at least 10 years of experience and up to 1,000 hours of flight time to even be considered.

Their aircraft is the F-16 Fighting Falcon. It’s capable of more than 1,500 miles per hour and a rate of climb around 30,000 feet per minute.

“We can pull upward of nine Gs as we go out and demonstrate the max performance capabilities of the aircraft,” Ellison said.

The turns and twists are amazing to watch, but also serve a bigger purpose. Since their creation in 1953, one of the Thunderbirds’ top jobs has been to inspire the next generation to join the Air Force.

“Anybody coming out to watch the Thunderbirds Saturday and Sunday will see the pride, precision and professionalism with which we do our job. They’ll see how inspiring seeing the aircraft maneuver and fly together really is,” Ellison said.

The Thunderbirds will be performing at the Thunder in the Valley Airshow at the Waterloo Regional Airport. Saturday and Sunday, gates open at 8 a.m. The show starts at 10:30 a.m. and ends before 5 p.m.

l Comments: (319) 368-8610; forrest.saunders@kcrg.com

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