Thunderbirds tear through GA skies - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Thunderbirds tear through GA skies

September 2, 2003

Warner Robbins- When the Thunderbirds make an entrance everyone takes notice. The squad performs in all 50 states and 57 countries around the globe tearing through skies and giving the public a look at Air Force F-16 pilots in action.

"A lot of the basic maneuvers that we do are the same skills that every young male and female pilot learn going through pilot training. What we do is accentuate them and make them a little more exciting," says Thunderbird pilot, Major Mark Smith.

Smith says even though being a thunderbird keeps him away from home so often, there isn't a day he'd rather spend on the ground.

"If you've ever wondered why birds sing it's because they're up flying amongst the clouds and the beautiful blue sky and we kind of get that same feeling," he explains.

These men aren't just stunt pilots. All 8 thunderbirds have flown in combat, an experience that has taught them the importance of precision and trust.

When they're parked on the ground each jet sits about four feet apart, but in the sky only 18 inches is separating wing tip to wing tip.

"It's like a brotherly relationship. They can tell if we're having a bad day, or if you're tired. My goal is to back up the boss in all the maneuvers, all the radio calls, and I expect these guys to do the same for me," says Smith.

Whether flying solo, or as a squad, thunderbirds strive to reinforce public confidence in the men and women that take to the skies to keep America free.

The Thunderbirds will headline the Robins Air Force base open house air show Saturday and Sunday. The gates will be open from 9 AM to 5 PM. Admission is free.

Posted at 6:10 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com