Thunderbirds

This fleet of F-16's represents the Air Force's elite "Air Demonstration Squadron".  Its goal is to not only show the capabilities of the Air Force's high performance aircraft to people around the world but also the high level of professionalism in the people that fly, maintain and support such aircraft.

The Thunderbirds Flying Squadron formed back in 1953 using fighter/bomber jets from the Korean War era.  Aircraft used by the flying team over the years included F-84 Thunderjets, F-100 Super Sabres, F-4E Phantoms, T-38 Talon trainers, F-16A's and finally the F-16C Fighting Falcons seen at the Air Shows today.

Based at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Thunderbirds have, over the years, demonstrated in all 50 States and 57 foreign countries.  The squadron usually performs about 88 air demonstrations per year and five planes are used with four usually staying together while the fifth performs solo stunts.  A typical demonstration lasts around an hour and the pilots perform about 30 different maneuvers. 

Not all Air Shows at Edwards include performances by the Thunderbirds so when they do perform, it is a real treat!

For those of you who are science fiction fans:  The futuristic toy aircraft piloted by puppets in the British filmmaker Gerry Anderson's version of "The Thunderbirds" from the 1960's are no relation to this Squadron.

The pilots and flight crew of the Thunderbirds prepare for taking off.
The flying team makes a few flybys over the crown in their four aircraft diamond formation.
The formation of F-16C's flying upside-down as they are halfway through a full loop.
After the loop, they zoom by.
Another look at the four plane formation.
One of the solo F-16 performers screams by the audience at lighting speed when the crowd least expects it.  In this picture, what looks like flames coming out of the engine is evidence that the afterburner is turned on.
The four plane formation is seen off in the distance.
The formation completes another 360 loop.
Another pass by the Thunderbirds.
Here, the four planes converge from four separate angles narrowly missing each other as they pass by.
One of the Thunderbird F-16's being towed back to the flight line with an exhausted pilot.

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