Welcome to today's live chat with Capt. Blaine Jones of the Air Force's Thunderbirds. The chat will get under way in a few minutes.
Here are a couple of things you need to know about how the chat works:
- This is a Q&A type of chat; your question won't appear live on the site when you submit it. It goes into queue with other submitted questions, and it will appear live on the site if it's chosen to be answered. In most of the live chats, there are more questions than can be answered in the time allotted.
- Since your question is in queue, you don't need to resubmit it.
Hello Tucson! The Thunderbirds and I just landed a few minutes ago at Davis-Monthan AFB and we are looking forward to a great show this weekend!
@FentonJoe- Not yet, but I will pass that on to Thunderbirds Public Affairs. Hopefully you will be able to do that soon
@RaquelB- We are all in our 30's - and have to have vision correctable to 20/20 (I think). I was blessed with good eyesight at 20/17
@Scott- We can fly in winds up to 35 knots down the runway or up to a 25 knot crosswind. We also need 5 miles of visibility to fly the demo- rain sometimes reduces that but we will give it our best shot! However, safety is our #1 priority, so if the weather will not support the show, we will try to wait it out
@azjenny- We will
fly over 60 performances at 33 locations this year
@Gary53 - each of our pilots are experienced fighter pilots. We must have a minimum of 750 hours of fighter/trainer time, no more than 12 years Air Force experience, and multiple sources of recommendations
@Mick- We have a lead solo (#5) and opposing solo (#6) on the team. We showcase the F-16's performance and maneuverability. As solo pilots, you will see us flying by ourselves during the performance doing multiple individual maneuvers such as rolls, knife-edge passes, slow flight, sneak passes, etc. When the solo's team up, it's my job to fly off of the lead solo to ensure all of our passes cross at show center. Come on out to get a first hand look!
@DM, @Paul- Our practice tomorrow is at 2:00PM for the military. However the base will not be open to the public until this weekend's shows at 3:00PM
@FentonJoe- the highest G maneuver I fly is the "Max Turn, 1/2 cuban 8". I will approach show center at about 450 MPH, select full afterburner and do a min radius turn for 360 degrees. My target G throughout that maneuver is 7.5Gs. immediately following that maneuver I pull into the vertical can fly a half cuban 8 maneuver, which is basically an incomplete loop that finishes 180 degrees out from where I started.
@Mick- Yes, we have approximately 120 enlisted representing roughly 30 career fields across the Air Force. Our NDI team along with our dedicated and assistant dedicated crew chiefs do travel with us every week
@FentonJoe- I can't tell you off the top of my head, but it's close to 5,000 performances. One thing to note, out of the 59 years we have been flying, we have never lost a performance due to maintenance difficulties!
@Radartech- we are scheduled to fly about 3:00 on Saturday and Sunday. However, there will be multiple performances from other demonstration teams each day starting at 8:30 AM
@stephanaero- we need the clouds to be no lower than about 2,000' for our "flat show"
@Marge- That's a big question. In a nutshell, we provide the most efficient and effective way to demonstrate to the public what their Air Force is capable of -- both on the ground (support functions) and in the air. We also get to stay engaged with young people, which is enormously important for maintaining an all-volunteer force.
@FentonJoe- New pilots are chosen by their past performance, so there is not a "flying interview". However, both #7 & #8 will fly media & hometown heroes such as Dr. Peter Rhee - who is taking off right now!
We fly as few as 18 inches apart during the diamond and delta sequences
@Gary53- We've been flying the F-16 in the T-Birds since 1993 and upgraded to the newer Block-52 F-16s a couple years ago. We plan on flying the F-16 for many more years. The rumor is that our next aircraft will be the F-35!
@RaquelB- I have not read the article. However, I can tell you that safety is our #1 Priority, without a doubt. Our show sequences are very scripted and practiced daily and we have an outstanding safety record. Our
pilots' safety records are scrutinized as well so we make sure we continue our great track record!
@Noah - this is my first year on the team and I recently transitioned from the F-22. I have about 200 hours in the F-16 to date and over 1000 hours of fighter time
@stephenaero - We have 3 shows: a flat show, low show, and a high show. During a high show, we will fly up to 3 miles above the runway. When the weather will not allow that, we can fly a low show which still enables us to do rolls (no loops
@stephanaero- and a flat show has no rolls or loops - only formation flat passes
@FentonJoe- during debrief, we discuss everything that happened during the show- from the march out to the jet, every maneuver, all the way until the taxi back and getting out of the airplane. We watch each pilot's inflight video to analyze any mistakes and learn how we can improve the show. The debrief is where the learning takes place and is a great way to become a better pilot
@JPC- you will see the solos down at 200 feet this weekend!
This concludes today's chat - we'll let Capt. Jones continue with his preparations for the weekend show. Thanks to the readers for the good questions, and to Capt. Jones for his participation.
Thanks for all the questions! We're looking forward to a great show this weekend and are excited to be in Tucson. Please stop by and find me if you have any more questions, I will be happy to talk!