F-16 Fighting Falcon News

Thunderbirds continue to fly five-ship show while returning pilot requalifies

June 9, 2005 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, announced today they will continue to fly a five-ship demonstration at air shows around the country until a newly assigned right wing pilot completes training required for the position.

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The team, which normally flies a six-ship demonstration, has been without their right wing pilot since May 7 when then right wing Maj. Brian Burns identified a medical condition that was impacting his ability to perform as a demonstration team pilot. Major Burns has since been cleared to return to fly, but because of the unique and demanding safety requirements of flying close formations during aerial demonstrations Air Force leadership made the difficult decision to reassign Major Burns.

"Major Burns is a superb aviator, outstanding officer and will continue to serve our Air Force with distinction," said Lt. Col. Mike Chandler, Thunderbird commander.

Maj. Chris Callaghan, the 2002-2003 Thunderbird right wing pilot, has returned to the team as the squadron's right wing pilot to complete the season. He came to the team from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, where he was flying the F-15C.

"We welcome Major Callaghan back to the Thunderbird team and look forward to showcasing Air Force airpower and precision flying across the country with minimal disruptions to our air show schedule," Colonel Chandler said.

Safety is always a number one concern for the Air Force and the Thunderbirds. The safety of pilots, enlisted crews and the viewing public is the first priority during every demonstration. The Thunderbirds will continue to fly a five-ship demonstration until Major Callaghan completes training required to fly the right wing demonstration position. The right wing pilot is responsible for flying in the diamond formation during the demonstration as well as scheduling and assisting the operations officer.


Courtesy of Air Combat Command News Service