Thunderbirds to headline 2012 air show

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Katrina M. Brisbin
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Once again, Team McConnell will open its doors to the public for the 2012 Air Show and Open House to showcase the capability of the U.S. military branches and government agencies.
Wings Over McConnell will take place Sept. 29 and 30, 2012. The event is free and open to the public.

This year's show will be headlined by the U.S. Army Golden Knights and the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds.

The Thunderbirds, America's ambassadors in blue, were officially activated June 1, 1953, as the 3600th Air Demonstration Team at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. In June 1956, the team moved to its current home at Nellis AFB, Nev.

The first aircraft used was the straight-winged F-84G Thunderjet, a combat fighter-bomber that had seen action in Korea.

Since then, the Thunderbirds have transitioned through nine different aircraft.

The team converted to the F-16D Fighting Falcon in 2009. The Fighting Falcon represents the full range of capabilities possessed by the Air Force's tactical fighters. With an upgraded avionics package and a more powerful engine, The F-16D adds an additional 3,600 pounds of thrust, making maneuvering during demonstrations more smooth.

The first demonstration team was comprised of seven officers and 22 enlisted members. Today, the Thunderbirds squadron is an Air Combat Command unit composed of eight pilots, including six demonstration pilots, four support officers, three civilians and approximately 130 enlisted personnel.

The team performs precision aerial maneuvers to exhibit the capabilities of modern high-performance aircraft to audiences around the world.

Today's demonstrations are much different than the early years. During their first year, the demonstration was comprised of a series of formation aerobatics, lasting a total of 15 minutes.

Now the entire show, including ground and air demonstrations, runs approximately an hour and fifteen minutes. The choreographed, drill-style ground ceremony starts the demonstration by showcasing the attention to detail and esprit de corps that defines enlisted members. As the jets take to the skies, the crowd gets a glimpse of the skills and capabilities that all fighter pilots must possess.

For the 2012 performance year, the team is scheduled to perform more than 60 demonstrations in 33 locations, spending more than 200 days on the road. A typical season lasts from March to November. The winter months are used to train new members.

The Thunderbirds mission statement is to strengthen morale and esprit de corps among military and community members while reinforcing public confidence in the Air Force by demonstrating the professional competence of Air Force members.

Performing along with several acts for the McConnell AFB community, the Thunderbirds will pass by on the 59th season Sept. 29 and 30.

The two day event is free and open to the public. For more information visit: