The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, known to all the world as the “Thunderbirds” are the Air Force’s Ambassadors in Blue. They represent the 500,000 men and women of the Unites States Air Force. The Thunderbirds plan and present precision aerial maneuvers to exhibit the capabilities of modern, high-performance aircraft and the high degree of professional skill required to operate those aircraft. The Thunderbirds squadron is composed of eight pilots (including six demonstration pilots), four support officers, four civilians and more than 100 enlisted personnel.
Thunderbird #8 will arrive in the skies over Fort Lauderdale Beach at approximately 3:45pm EST on Thursday, February 11th for a low altitude aerial survey prior to landing at the Fort Lauderdale Int’l Airport.
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The Thunderbirds air demonstration is a mix of formation flying and solo routines. The four-jet diamond formation demonstrates the training and precision of Air Force pilots, while the two solo aircraft highlight some of the extreme capabilities of the F-16. In all, the pilots perform approximately 40 maneuvers in a single demonstration. An aerial demonstration lasts 60 minutes with an additional 15 minutes for the ground show before takeoff.
During a typical season the Thunderbirds perform no more than 70 air demonstrations in 35 cities throughout the nation. More than 280 million people in all 50 states and 57 foreign countries have seen the red, white and blue Thunderbirds jets.
Thunderbirds were officially activated June 1, 1953, as the 3600th Air Demonstration Unit at Luke AFB, Arizona. The unit was nicknamed the “Stardusters.” Their first aircraft was the straight-winged F-84G Thunderjet. The team transitioned to the swept-winged F-84F Thunderstreak in 1955. In June 1956, the team moved to its current home at Nellis AFB in Nevada and traded the veteran F-84 for the world’s first supersonic fighter, the F-100 Super Sabre. In early 1964, the team changed briefly to the F-105B Thunderchief, but after only six shows returned to the F-100. In 1969 the team transitioned to the F-4E Phantom and then in 1974 to the T-38 Talon, a more fuel efficient jet. In 1983 the Thunderbirds began flying the F-16 and continue to do so currently.