We Interviewed The A-10 Thunderbolt II Demo Pilot Who Told Us Why The “Warthog” Still Rocks

Major Cody “ShIV” Wilton poses next to the team's A-10C Thunderbolt II. (All images: Author).

We met Major Cody “ShIV” Wilton, commander of the A-10C Thunderbolt II demonstration team who continues to showcase the raw power of the most unique jet in the USAF inventory.

The A-10 Thunderbolt II has been a mainstay in the USAF for well over 40 years, and has no retirement date in sight. The A-10C (aka “Warthog” or “Hog” or “Hawg”) is showcased at air shows across the world, and the man behind the controls is Major Cody “ShIV” Wilton, the commander of the A-10C Thunderbolt II demonstration team. Fortunate enough to get extremely up close and personal with the jets and the team as they arrived for the Pocono Raceway Air Show in Pennsylvania, Major Wilton talked to The Aviationist about the pros of the A-10, and why it’s such a vital jet to the USAF.

Since its introduction in March of 1976, to the 355th Tactical Training Wing, at Davis-Monthan in Arizona, the A-10 has received many upgrades and modernized technology to keep the flying beast airborne. The Precision Engagement Modification Program updated A-10 and OA-10 aircraft to the A-10C with a new flight computer, and new glass displays and controls. Other upgrades included the (JDAM) Joint Direct Attack Munition, and the Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER) to provide personnel below, with sensor data. In 2011, the A-10 received a Hand-on-Throttle-and-Stick layout, which combines the F-16’s stick with the F-15’s throttle.

The U.S. Air Force A-10C Demo during its display.

We met up with Major Wilton and asked him what separates the A-10 from other jets, and why its attack capabilities attracted him to fly this specific jet.

“I like the mission” is why Major Wilton likes flying the A-10 as much as he does. “Getting out there, and being apart of the close air support mission” is what he loves about this jet, and the mission and challenges that come with it. “It’s the one that’s in the fight, it’s down there close, supporting the guys on the ground.” The A-10 was designed to fly into dangerous combat scenarios, and semi-prepared runways with high risk of foreign object damage to the engines. The General Electric TF34 turbofan engines are in such an unusual location for that exact reason. The location decreases ingestion risk, and allows them to run while the aircraft is serviced and rearmed, which greatly reduces turn around time compared to other aircraft. The location of the wings is also convenient, being so close to the ground to help with rearming operations.

Most people already know that “Brtttt” sound from youtube, social media, or being in the service themselves. But, as to Major Wilton it “doesn’t sound like that in the air.” This sound is General Electric GAU-8/A Avenger fires 30mm bullets from a seven-barrel Gatling-style autocannon. It can fire up to 3,900 rounds per minute, which at this rate, each of the seven barrels fires 557 rounds per minute. Major Wilton’s favorite part of flying the A-10 is using the GAU-8.

A close up view of the General Electric GAU-8/A Avenger 30 mm hydraulically driven seven-barrel Gatling-style cannon.

Major Wilton showcases the power of the A-10C Thunderbolt II across the United States, and other places also.

We asked him what his favorite sites to fly public demonstrations were, and he stated that “There’s not that one that stands out, for anything in particular.” He then proceeded to talk about the Indy 500 flyover saying, “Doing the Indy 500 flyover was just unique, I mean it’s the Indy 500.” At the race, Major Wilton participated in a four aircraft flyover which included a P-40 Warhawk, a P-51 Mustang, his A-10, and F-16 Viper, flown by former F-16 Viper Demo Team pilot, Major John “Rain” Waters. Major Wilton also touched on Louisville, which was a very unique show to him and his team. “Last year I did the Louisville show, and it was my first show over water, you’re in downtown Louisville, doing demonstrations below the tops of the buildings, so that one easily stood out.”

“ShIV” taxies during The Great Pocono Raceway Air Show last weekend.

Through all of these air shows, the A-10C Thunderbolt II Demo Team lives on, still showcasing the power and capabilities of a jet that should “realistically” be nearing retirement, but is nowhere near stopping the amazing missions and support it continues to give the USAF day in and day out.