Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

Two A-10 Thunderbolt II Jets Crash Near Nellis AFB, Nevada; Both Pilots Eject Safely.

The Two Aircraft of the 57th Wing Were On Routine Training Mission.

Early reports and a release from Nellis AFB say two Fairchild Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft, referred to as the “Warthog”, have crashed northwest of Las Vegas in the Nevada Test and Training Range.

Both pilots of the single-seat ground attack aircraft ejected safely and were transported to the Mike O’Callaghan Military Medical Center at Nellis for evaluation.

The accident occurred at approximately 8:00 PM local time in Nevada on Wed. Sept. 6. Sunset in the region was reported as 6:58 PM. Weather in the region was reported as cloudy with light winds. No cause of the crash has been released.

The two A-10s belonged to the 57th Wing (57 WG) of the United States Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis. The unit provides realistic tactical air combat training for all units visiting Nellis including those participating in routine training and the Red Flag combat simulation exercises.

The Massive U.S. Military Response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas; On Alert For Irma In Florida.

Aircraft, Rescue Personnel and Ships Respond to U.S. National Emergency.

The U.S. military has fielded a massive rescue and relief operation in the wake of Hurricane Harvey along the Texas coast. News media and military sources report “more than 1,000 active-duty troops” will provide rescue and relief operations to the region, with an additional 1,100 prepared to deploy, according to the Department of Defense.

The initial U.S. military response to Hurricane Harvey included the Coast Guard and Texas National Guard. As the scope of the storm grew additional active-duty units, including significant air assets, from across the U.S. were put on alert and then tasked with rescue and support operations in the storm-stricken region.

“Approximately 1,600 active-duty military personnel are deployed to the affected area,” US Northern Command, who controls active duty U.S. military personnel in North America, said in a statement to media on Thursday, August 31.

The U.S. military’s Northern Command located at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, Colorado has directed the deployment of 73 helicopters, mostly various versions of Blackhawks, 4 Lockheed C-130 cargo aircraft and 8 elite Air Force Para-Rescue units to support aid and rescue operations in the region. The units come from locations around the United States.

Media outlets including CNN have reported that the Air Force has flown rescue/relief missions using “Seven HC-130 Combat King IIs, four C-130 Hercules, 11 HH-60 Pavehawks, five C-17 Globemaster IIIs, one E-3 Sentry AWACS, one E-8 JSTARS and one KC-10 Extender.” Additional reports have indicated at least one U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft has joined the operation.

USAF Pararescue operators, special operations aviators and crewman return from a rescue mission on August 29, 2017 to Easterwood Airport in College Station, Texas. The mission rescued 11 people from the flooded area in a single sortie. The aircraft from the 347th Rescue Group of Moody AFB, Georgia were deployed in support of FEMA during Hurricane Harvey. (USAF Photo by SSG. Ryan Callaghan)

As of yesterday there have been a reported “4,700” aerial rescues conducted by military assets in the region. Because of the size of the military air relief effort, airports in the region are filled to capacity with aircraft assisting in the search and rescues.

The U.S. Navy dispatched the vessels USS Oak Hill (LSD-51), a Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship and the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) to the Gulf region in support of humanitarian aid and rescue operations. The USS Kearsarge is equipped with a flight deck to support helicopter and tilt-rotor flight operations and has a waterline level stern well deck for deploying surface craft including large assault landing hovercraft.

The USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) has been deployed to the Texas gulf coast in support of humanitarian aid operations in the region. (USN Photo)

Depending on the source, approximately 66 people have reportedly lost their lives so far in Hurricane Harvey, a relatively low number in part due to effective early warning and evacuation but also partially because of a very large U.S. military response to the crisis. This casualty figure, while very significant, contrasts with the approximately 8,000 lives lost in the Galveston, Texas hurricane at the turn of the century in 1900. That hurricane happened before accurate weather prediction, advanced communication and rescue resources existed.

The gigantic tropical storm, that began on August 17 and continued until September 2, was the first storm of its type to hit the U.S. mainland since 2005 when Hurricane Wilma landed. Sustained winds in excess of 100 MPH and the worst flooding ever recorded in the history of the region caused widespread destruction. The city of Port Arthur, Texas is one of several cities that remain completely submerged following the storm, with even their evacuation centers becoming flooded necessitating the relocation of rescued people initially placed there by aid workers. In some areas floodwaters, the worst ever, did not reach their highest point until days after the storm.

Another tropical storm in the region, Hurricane Irma, is forecasted to make landfall in Florida this Saturday. Satellite surveillance on Wednesday measured the storm as over twice the width of Florida. Airborne weather reconnaissance and sea-based data collection have measured sustained wind speeds of 195 MPH in the approaching storm as the U.S. hurricane season continues.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, has flown weather reconnaissance missions into the rapidly approaching Hurricane Irma off the Florida coast using their newly upgraded and repainted Lockheed WP-3D Orion N42RF, named “Kermit”. The aircraft has operated from Tampa, Florida. The crew captured dramatic video of one of their weather reconnaissance missions. During the flight the aircraft dropped a series of parachute-deployed NCAR GPS Dropsonde airborne sensors. The small sensors fall gradually through the hurricane suspended by their parachute and collect wind velocity and directional data. Once a pattern of dropsonde sensors are released into the storm by the WP-3D aircraft they transmit data from their wild ride through the storm back to monitoring stations to provide intelligence about the storm’s direction, strength and speed.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration operates two hurricane surveillance Lockheed WP-3D Orions from Florida to gather weather intelligence from upcoming storms like Hurricane Irma scheduled to land in Florida this weekend. (NOAA Photo)

At this link you can find the daily schedule of the NOAA aircraft activity for today.

The NOAA aircraft mission plan for Sept. 7, 2017.

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Up Close And Personal With Textron’s Scorpion Light Attack Jet During Weapons Separation Testing

Textron’s Scorpion Aces Weapons Separation Testing.

Going five for five in the complex, methodical and engineering-driven military aircraft test regimes is rare. Weather, range logistics, recording equipment, aircraft readiness or one of any other number of details typically conspire to scrub a test flight.

This past July the Textron Aviation Defense Team of two Scorpion jets (production airframes P2 and P3), three Test Pilots, two Flight Test Engineers and 12 support staff (ground, weapons, maintenance, program) descended on NAS Patuxent River, Maryland for weapons separation testing. Five scheduled flight tests in five different configurations over five flight days with 100% completion on time and target enabled the team to achieve “Ace” status, of sorts.

The test plan was aggressive and put the credibility of the three Textron test pilots at risk – all graduates of the US Navy Test Pilot School at Pax River.

Textron Aviation’s Scorpion Jets form up in the skies over Wichita, Kansas. The four Scorpions (developmental aircraft in the foreground with production aircraft 1-3 ) are maintaining heavy utilization rates expanding the flight envelope, performing weapons testing, making demonstration flights to a variety of interested customers and participating in the USAF light attack experiment.

Textron Chief Test Pilot Dan Hinson (23 years in the F/A-18) was humbled to be back among the professionals where he had served and honed his skills. Hinson noted the tremendous respect for both NAVAIR and the Navy’s VX-23 developmental flight test organization, the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron affectionately known as the “Salty Dogs.” The entire test regime was carefully coordinated with NAVAIR, the Naval Test Wing Atlantic (NTWL) and VX-23 with protocols followed in the same fashion as is done for military aircraft tests.

Textron Scorpion fires 2.75″ Hydra-70 rockets during recent weapons trials at NAS Patuxent River, MD. The Textron team achieved 100% mission completion rate during weapons system testing. 5 different configurations (LAU-131, HMP-440 Gun pods, GBU-12) were tested over 5 days, with the tests concluding 4 days early.

Weapons separation may appear simple; however, it is complex testing that is rigorously documented. One Scorpion functioned as “chase“ aircraft while the “tester” was outfitted with high speed cameras on the nose, wing and tail. Every aspect of the release was closely monitored with scores of data points captured.
This was the first time the Scorpion had achieved rack separation. Weapons such as the HMP-400 .50 Cal guns and LAU-131A/A rocket launcher were monitored for hot gas ingestion into the intakes. Operational modes were tested and wiring configurations were evaluated.
Weapons tested included:

  • LAU-131A/A 2.75” unguided/guided rocket launcher
  • HMP-400 .50 Cal machine gun pods, (two flights with single and simultaneous firing)
  • GBU-12 Paveway II 500 lb. bombs
  • BDU-50 (500 lb. practice bomb)

As aggressive as the schedule for the weapons testing was, it was completed four days early. Hinson and team relished the tremendous professional support of NAVAIR, NTWL and VX-23 and departed with the Navy’s great respect for their test efficiency and rigor, fortified. The completed tests took place just in time to open the weapons delivery envelope in support of the USAF OA-X Light Attack Experiment taking place at Holloman AFB, New Mexico.

Textron Scorpion drops a 500 lb GBU-12 Paveway II during recent weapons trials at NAS Patuxent River, MD. The Textron team achieved 100% mission completion rate during weapons system testing. 5 different configurations (LAU-131, HMP-400 Gun pods, GBU-12) were tested over 5 days, with the tests concluding 4 days early.

The aircraft utilized for testing were of the production standard (P1-P3) differing from the original developmental aircraft (D1) in the following ways;

  • P1-P3 all feature an all trimmable tail – enabling improved flight performance.
  • The large internal payload bay has been reconfigured to house deeper payloads.
  • The landing gear has been updated to a trailing link gear configuration with larger brakes.
  • P1-P3 utilize a full Garmin G3000 Avionics suite.

Given all the attention the attack component of the Scorpion has received in the press, it is often overlooked that the aircraft is built around a payload bay. The modular payload bay is impressive with great volume, electrical and cooling capacity for a wide variety of payloads/sensors. One example is the L-3 Wescam MX-25 – now capable of full retraction into the payload bay. The MX-25 is L-3 Wescam’s largest electro-optical/infrared camera. For comparison purposes, the US Navy P-8 Poseidon utilizes the slightly smaller L-3 Wescam MX-20.

Textron Scorpion with HMP-400 gun pods overflies NAS Patuxent River during recent weapons trials. The TEXTRON team achieved 100% mission completion rate during weapons system testing. 5 different configurations (LAU-131, HMP-400 Gun pods, GBU-12) were tested over 5 days, with the tests concluding 4 days early.

Aside from great payload flexibility, the Scorpion is night vision capable and both the front and rear cockpits are prepared for use with the Thales Visionix Scorpion Helmet Mounted Cueing System.

Textron’s Scorpion summer of 2017 has been a resounding success. The 4 aircraft (D1, P1, P2, P3) were simultaneously tasked at multiple locations (Paris International Airshow, Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT – RAF Fairford), Pax River, MD [weapons testing] and the ongoing USAF OA-X Light attack experiment. All while a production airframe (at times two) continued with envelope expansion testing at Textron’s base in Wichita, Kansas.

Textron Scorpion fires 2.75″ Hydra-70 rocket during recent weapons trials at NAS Patuxent River, MD. The Textron team achieved 100% mission completion rate during weapons system testing. 5 different configurations (LAU-131, HMP-440 Gun pods, GBU-12) were tested over 5 days, with the tests concluding 4 days early.

In a class by itself, the Scorpion offers unique capability to carry the latest ISR sensors, loiter for extended periods of time and prosecute targets at will. Given the aircraft’s sound performance to date, the Scorpion appears well on the way to becoming the solution of choice for economical, intelligent and lethal airpower in the permissive environment or as a component of a large force projection.

Textron Scorpion fires 2.75″ Hydra-70 rocket during recent weapons trials at NAS Patuxent River, MD. The Textron team achieved 100% mission completion rate during weapons system testing. 5 different configurations (LAU-131, HMP-440 Gun pods, GBU-12) were tested over 5 days, with the tests

The Author expresses special thanks to Dan Hinson – Textron Aviation Defense Chief Test Pilot and former NAVAIR PMA-265 F/A-18 & EA-18G Integrated Product Team Lead, Commanding Officer of the U.S. Naval Strike Fighter Weapons School, and graduate of U.S. Naval Test Pilot School Class 103.

Photo Credits, as indicated US Navy by Erik Hildebrandt / Released and Jim Haseltine / Released

“During A CSAR Mission We Integrated With Puma Helicopters and Su-25 Attack Planes”: A-10 Pilots Recount Their Warthog Experiences

A-10 Thunderbolt II Pilots Speak About The Warthog They Fly Over Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, and Eastern Europe.

Dubbed Warthog, Hog or just Hawg, the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the “airplane built around the GAU-8 Avenger 30-mm hydraulically driven seven-barrel Gatling-type cannon” to fight the Soviet tanks in the European battlefields during the Cold War, is considered one of the most durable and lethal combat plane in the CAS (Close Air Support) mission.

We have discussed the current capabilities of the Warthog with two 74th Fighter Squadron “Flying Tigers” pilots from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia: Lt. Col. Bryan T. France, Former Commander, and “Pinna” an Italian Air Force exchange pilot. Indeed, thanks to the Military Personnel Exchange Program, the U.S. Air Force has the opportunity to swap service members with an allied nation military: for this reason, whilst “Pinna”, from an AMX A-11A Ghibli experience with the 132° Gruppo (Squadron), flies with the 74th FS, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Joe “Slap” Goldsworthy, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot with more than 2,700 flight hours of experience, is assigned to the 132° Gruppo and flies the Ghibli (even in combat).

Here below you can find an excerpt of the interviews both pilots gave to The Aviationist during the preparation of “BRRTTTT….deployments, war chronicles and stories of the last A-10 Warthogs” an ebook that we have just released (for details and how to buy at a very special price click here).

Italian exchange pilot Roberto Manzo, 74th Fighter Squadron training assistant, prepares to taxi to the runway, Aug. 25, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Manzo is working to master flying the A-10C Thunderbolt II in hopes of returning to Italy as an instructor pilot for the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson)

Lt. Col. Bryan T. France, Former Commander, 74th Fighter Squadron

Can you provide some details about the 74th FS?

The 74th Fighter Squadron is a combat-coded A-10C unit ready to support our operations with the best Close Air Support, Forward Air Control (Airborne), and Combat Search and Rescue on the planet.

Where have you been deployed with the A-10? Can you recall the most interesting missions you took part with the Hog?

I’ve had experiences around the world including Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, and Eastern Europe. One of my most memorable experiences was landing A-10s on austere runways previously used by the Soviet Union 25 years ago. It took a true team effort including high-level coordination with our European allies. We were able to demonstrate a great capability that is unique to the Hog as a fighter aircraft.

Even though the aircraft has undertaken several upgrade programs since it was introduced in the 1970s, and the A-10C is much different from the “original” A-10A, the airframe has not changed too much in the last 40 years. Does this affect you has a pilot and commander of a Warthog squadron?

If I were to sit down to design a heavy attack platform, it would look just like the A-10. Our airframe was built to extend loiter times over the battlefield, deliver a substantial amount of ordnance, and survive significant battle damage. It does these things exceptionally well and, with the advent of the C-model precision guidance upgrades, integrates as well as any aircraft with data and sensor management.

What’s the typical payload to carry out the above-mentioned missions?

We have a large variety of weaponeering options available to us. The starting point is, of course, the mighty GAU-8 Avenger Gatling-type cannon. It’s a highly-accurate point-and-shoot weapon that grants our pilots superior firepower and flexibility in a close-combat ground fight. Additionally, we carry many other capable munitions including GPS-guided, laser-guided, and unguided bombs. Based on the flexibility this gives us, our payloads vary greatly from mission to mission.

30 mm gun aside, what’s the most flexible weapon you have on the A-10?

Second to the gun, I think the Maverick provides the most flexibility in weaponeering. We can employ it from medium or low altitudes against a large variety of target types. It’s a difficult weapon to master, but indispensable in a CAS fight.

Italian exchange pilot Roberto Manzo, 74th Fighter Squadron training assistant, poses for a photo before flying, Aug. 25, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Manzo was raised in Rome, Italy and developed a desire to become a pilot after seeing jets fly for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson)

Italian Air Force exchange pilot “Pinna”

Tell us something about you. Who is “Pinna” and what about his experience?

I was born and raised in Ostia, near Rome.

I started my adventure in the Italian Air Force Academy, in 2003, with the Drago V course. Upon graduation, I attended the pilot courses with the Euro NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT), at Sheppard, Texas, TX, between 2007 and 2008, flying the Cessna T-37B Tweet and Northrop T-38C Talon. Back in Italy, I was assigned to the A-11B AMX “Ghibli” and attended the first LIFT (Lead in Fighter Training) course with the 61º Stormo (Wing) at Lecce-Galatina airbase, in 2009, flying the MB-339CD and then the OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) course, with the 32º Stormo, at Amendola, on the AMX and AMX-T, between 2010 and 2011.

Once I arrived to my unit, the 51º Stormo, based at Istrana in northeastern Italy, I was assigned to the glorious 132º Gruppo (Squadron) FBR (Fighter Bomber Reconnaissance) “C. E. Buscaglia,” flying the “Ghibli” until my recent departure for the United States.

In addition to my personal and professional growth, during my time with the 132º I also earned my callsign, “Pinna” (Italian for “Fin”), which I’ve carried for several years now.

How did you get the opportunity to become an exchange pilot with the U.S. Air Force A-10?

The possibility of flying the legendary A-10 emerged in 2009 as a consequence of a bilateral agreement between the Italian and the U.S. Air Force. Several factors contribute in selecting the pilot destined to the Hog, including the flight experience, the achieved qualifications and currencies and, of course, the fluency with the English language (as no specific training is foreseen to improve with it before leaving for the U.S.). Although I already had a significant experience in the Close Air Support role with the AMX, I started to focus even more on this kind of mission once I learned that I would be assigned to the A-10. “Ponch”, my ItAF predecessor as an exchange pilot on the A-10 was extremely helpful during my transition from the AMX to the Warthog: he managed my induction in the American “system,” that is no easy task considered that there is very little time before things start to get serious.

Do you like the Warthog? If so, why?

The A-10C is an amazing aircraft: reliable, durable and lethal. It is a one of a kind combat plane: every single part of the Warthog is designed for Close Air Support. It is simple to handle and “forgiving”; its flight envelope makes it extremely maneuverable at low speeds and able to turn in tight spaces: this means it can circle over restricted areas and provide better support to the troops on the ground. Obviously, it’s not too fast but speed is not a mandatory feature when your main need is to remain “on station” as long as possible.

Everything in the airplane is duplicated, so as to make it as durable as possible: there are two tails, two hydraulic systems, two engines which are positioned on the outer side of the fuselage so as to minimize the risk of fire in case one of the two turbofan engines is hit. What’s more, the pilot sits in a titanium aircraft armor, referred to as a “bathtub,” which protects the cockpit from rounds fired from below.

Whilst externally the aircraft is almost identical, the avionics of the current A-10C has virtually nothing to do with the old “Hawg” that became particularly famous as the “Tank-buster” during the first Gulf War 25 years. The aircraft features an advanced data link system, HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) commands, three radios, a latest generation Targeting Pod, and also a sophisticated HMCS (Helmet Mounted Cueing System), that alongside the rest of the aircraft’s sensors, allows the pilot to effectively employ the weapon in a matter of seconds.

What are the main differences between the A-10 and the AMX? What part of your experience with the 132° Gruppo in Italy has been important with the Thunderbolt?

The A-10C and the AMX are much different aircraft. Both share a certain ease in handling, and it is no secret that the pilots of both aircraft would appreciate a bit more thrust from the engine. Furthermore, the Warthog is more maneuverable at low speeds while the AMX, with its aerodynamic design, is faster than the A-10. There are some differences in terms of missions flown by the two aircraft, though: throughout the years, an AMX pilot learns to fly several different mission profiles, spanning from reconnaissance to light attack, from CSAR (Combat SAR) to Close Air Support; the U.S. Air Force squadrons equipped with the A-10C, focus in these last two missions. My time with the 132° Gruppo, especially the tour in Afghanistan as a member of the Task Group Black Cats, has been extremely important in developing those skills required to keep up with colleagues who excel in CAS and CSAR execution. 

Two Italian Air Force A-11 Ghiblis arrive to receive fuel from a KC-10 Extender during a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Aug. 7, 2017. Italy plays a key role supporting Coalition’s military operations through air capabilities based in Kuwait: one KC-767 aerial refueling aircraft, one unmanned Predator surveillance aircrafts, four AMX aircrafts for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations and an intergraded multi-sensory exploitation cell. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

Any particular experience you’ve lived with the “Flying Tigers” you want to share with The Aviationist’s readers?

At the beginning of 2016 I’ve also had the chance to take part in a deployment to Europe as part of the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. It was impressive to see in what conditions the A-10C was able to operate: in Estonia, every morning, a dedicated team had to defrost the aircraft; then we taxied between pile-ups of snow surrounding the taxiways! In Bulgaria we had the opportunity to conduct air-to-air training with the MiG-29 and to fly at low altitude through the mountains before reaching the firing range; I was also fortune to participate in a CSAR training where we have managed to integrate Puma helicopters and Su-25 attack planes… something you don’t see every day!

In Germany, I had the pleasure of flying a CAS mission during which I was assigned an Italian JTAC: I still remember his surprise hearing an Italian voice coming from an American A-10.

I think the most complicated exercises are those in which we simulate the “contact” between friendly troops and the enemy on the ground: learning how to safely use the weapons in such [TIC – Troops In Contact] situations is as complex as vital, and requires extremely accurate planning on the ground and fine execution in flight…

You can read the rest of the interviews (and much more) in “BRRTTTT….deployments, war chronicles and stories of the last A-10 Warthogs” (for details and how to buy at a very special price click here).

The cover of our recently released ebook (141 pages, 31 Articles,129 Pics and 6 Aircraft profiles) where you can find the rest of the interviews. Click here for more details! A paperback version will be available soon.

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Airshow Insider: Behind The Scenes with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

A Lot Goes Into Making a USAF Thunderbirds Flight Demo Happen; Here is Some of the Advanced Preparation.

Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Mt. Clemens, Michigan in the U.S. celebrated their 100th Anniversary with the Team Selfridge Open House and Air Show on Aug. 19 and 20. As a major U.S. airshow the event featured displays celebrating both U.S. Air Force history that showcased current and future operations at Selfridge and throughout the Air Force. As with many important airshows at Air Force facilities throughout the season the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds were the headlining performers at the show.

We got an insider’s look at the U.S. Air Force Flight Demonstration Team, The Thunderbirds, arrival and preparation for the big weekend prior to the show. Selfridge Air National Guard Base Public Affairs team, including USAF MSgt. David Kujawa, worked hard to get TheAviationist.com access to the Thunderbirds and a unique, behind-the-scenes look at their support team days before the airshow.

Thunderbird ground crew closes up on the jets prior to more rain on the Thursday before show weekend at Selfridge.

The Thunderbird’s arrival at Selfridge ANGB on Thursday, Aug. 17, two days before the show was unique since the team faced the combined challenges of flying all the way from their home base at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada and arriving at Selfridge ANGB in bad weather.

Thunderstorms and high winds buffeted the base and airshow venue early on arrival day. A KC-135T Stratotanker from the 171st Air Refueling Squadron at Selfridge ANGB launched early on Thursday from Michigan to support the Thunderbirds flight from Nevada to Michigan. After their rendezvous over the western U.S. the Michigan based tanker crew conducted three midair refuelings for each of the five Thunderbird F-16’s on their way to Selfridge. The sixth aircraft was already on station at Selfridge.

Thursday was a combined media day for the Thunderbirds and Selfridge along with crew orientation to the venue; rehearsal and planning for the numerous appearances and activities the Thunderbirds participate in while at a demonstration venue.

Traveling with a massive amount of parts and equipment to insure the show launches all aircraft in a high state of readiness, Thunderbird team members discuss the maintenance schedule.

One mission of the Thunderbirds during their visit to Selfridge was a Hometown Hero flight with Dr. Brian Smith of Detroit, Michigan. Dr. Smith was chosen for a Thunderbird Hometown Hero flight for his unselfish service to community and his lifelong commitment to education. He has received Congressional recognition for his efforts to steer young people to a career in aviation. Dr. Smith is the First African American to get a Ph.D in biomedical engineering from Wayne State University in Detroit. He also studied the effects of IEDs on soldiers in conflict zones and the effects of aircraft ejection on pilots. Smith’s family has a long history of selfless service to the U.S. military. His father served in World War II including spending time in a prisoner of war camp.

“I was up all night, couldn’t sleep, I am so excited.” Dr. Smith told us. “I tried to take a nap earlier today. No luck. I just want to get up there. I’m hoping they let me control the aircraft briefly. I’m a licensed pilot. Maybe I can experience the high roll rate of the aircraft myself.”

Dr. Brian Smith of Detroit, Michigan was fortunate enough to be selected as a Thunderbird “Hometown Hero” and flew with the team on Saturday after Thursday’s flight was weathered out.

Dr. Smith’s flight was scrubbed on Thursday due to bad weather but he did fly on Saturday morning with the Thunderbirds.

During the ground rehearsal for the weekend’s demonstrations the Thunderbirds would be parked across the field from the show line and spectators at Selfridge. TSgt. William Russell, a Thunderbird Crew Chief from Burlington, Vermont, told TheAviationist.com, “We’re going through the grey launch process rehearsal. It’s what we use to prepare aircraft for arriving at or leaving a show state.

TSgt William Russell, a Crew Chief on swing shift for the Thunderbirds, from Burlington, Vermont helps prepare the team by going through the grey launch process. (Photo: TheAviationist.com)

A significant amount of time on Thursday was spent with Thunderbird crews drilling on the ground demonstration portion of their show. The choreography and precision you see with the ground crew is difficult to achieve and requires frequent practice to maintain, so Thunderbird personnel are constantly training the procedures that are more regimented versions of the same launch protocols used for a combat F-16 unit in the Air Force.

Thunderbirds rehearse the precision drill and ceremony launch procedure of their show constantly.

A Thunderbird team member stows pilot gear for the team as the rain approaches.

The day was quiet as weather moved in and the Thunderbirds closed up their aircraft after performing regular maintenance and their training on the tarmac. Pilots in ready rooms held meetings for the flight demo and made plans for interfacing with the public throughout the demanding show weekend. It was an interesting look inside the process of the team getting ready for a typical Thunderbird airshow weekend.

H/T to Lance Riegle for the help with the video