Attendees of this year’s Beale Air and Space Expo will experience the unique thrill of seeing the United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, better known as the Thunderbirds, perform an air and ground show.
Six F-16 Fighting Falcon planes will be performing at Beale Air Force Base this May as one of the 60 demonstrations the group will do in 35 locations across the United States and Canada, according to Thunderbirds Public Affairs Officer Capt. Remoshay Nelson.
“The Thunderbirds will showcase the pride, precision and professionalism of the 685,000 total force American Airmen, both in the air and on the ground,” Nelson said via email.
The show at Beale will be around an hour and fifteen minutes and start with a ground show by maintainers who will demonstrate the maintenance requirements for launching and recovering the jets. The air demonstration will be a mix of formation flying and solo routines. The pilots will perform approximately 40 maneuvers during the show, Nelson said.
The four-plane diamond formation will highlight the training and precision of Air Force pilots and the solo routines will demonstrate the maximum capabilities of an F-16. During the diamond formation demonstration, the planes will get as close as 18 inches apart.
“The show gives onlookers a snapshot of how Airmen conduct operations every day around the world,” Nelson said. “It also gives the Thunderbirds an opportunity to exhibit the professional qualities the Air Force develops in the people who fly, maintain and support these aircraft.”
According to Nelson, the F-16 is one of the Air Force’s premier multi-role aircraft that can travel faster then 500 miles per hour, make 360-degree turns in tight airspace and fly several miles straight up into the sky.
“The Thunderbirds solo pilots will do all that and much more during the Beale Air Show, giving attendees a view of the capabilities of a combat-tested, multirole fighter aircraft,” Nelson said.
To prepare for these kinds of demonstrations, Thunderbird pilots go through a rigorous training session from November to March -- pilots attend routine academics an, fly two times a day for a total of 80 to 100 flights. During the show season, pilots train and practice the demonstration at least twice a week, according to Nelson. The six pilots who will be performing at Beale in May are Lt. Col. John Caldwell, Maj. Trevor Aldridge, Capt. Michael Brewer, Maj. Zane Taylor, Maj. Michelle Curran and Capt. Kyle Oliver.
Since 1953, the Thunderbirds have represented the Air Force as its official aerial demonstration team. However, if needed, the aircraft can be integrated into a fighter unit. The squad is based out of Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and can be combat-ready within 72 hours since the planes are only slightly modified, Nelson said.
“During the show, onlookers will witness the full maneuverability and capability of the aircraft,” Nelson said.
The 2020 Beale Air and Space Expo will take place on May 9 and 10. Entry to the event on both days is free with air demonstrations and ground displays running from noon-4:30 p.m. both days. Along with the Thunderbirds, the F-35 demo team, Beale’s U-2 and T-38 demo team will be performing. In addition, there will be a Smoke-n-Thunder Jet show and Vicky Benzing will be flying her 1940 Boeing Stearman, according to Senior Airman Valentina Viglianco with Beale public affairs.