The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds bill themselves “Ambassadors in Blue.”
They also represent the best of the U.S. Air Force. They have a drill-style ground ceremony to demonstrate their esprit de corps. In the air they combine precision formation flying with solo performances. Pilots have their own loud-and-proud routines to demonstrate both their skills and the capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon – Thunderbirds fly the U.S. Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter jet.
Their performance in Abbotsford will be the team’s only appearance in Canada this year, as they return to the city help celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary in style. They fly a full schedule that began in March and ends in November.
The team has eight highly experienced and carefully selected fighter pilots, and six of them will fly a demonstration in the Abbotsford International Air Show. Thunderbird 7 is the operations officer, and Thunderbird 8 is the advance pilot and narrator, lending his voice to describe the maneuvers during the show. Thunderbirds 9-12 are support officers who perform expert medical, administrative, maintenance and public affairs functions.
More than 120 enlisted personnel, representing nearly 30 career fields, form the backbone of the Thunderbirds. Enlisted team members are selected from units across the Air Force in a highly competitive hiring process. While each position has its various selection requirements, all eligible candidates must show a proven record of success and extensive job proficiency.
The team was born in 1953 at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, and selected the name Thunderbirds to reflect the strong influence of the Native American culture in the region and at the base.
They have done shows across Europe and Asia, and been seen by millions.
The team performs at 2:15 p.m. each day of the airshow, running Aug. 10 to 12 at Abbotsford International Airport.