June 17, 2005 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron,"Thunderbirds," have announced their new pilots for the 2006 demonstration season which includes the first female demonstration pilot in the 52 year history of the Thunderbirds.
Capt. Nicole "Fifi" Malachowski at a deployed location in Southwest Asia. She's the first female demonstration pilot on a U.S. military high performance jet team, the Thunderbirds. [USAF photo
Leading the team as Thunderbird no. 1, commander/leader, will be Lt. Col. Kevin Robbins, currently assigned to Air Force Weapons School, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
Joining the Thunderbirds in the no. 3 right wing position will be Capt. Nicole Malachowski, currently assigned to the 494th Fighter Squadron, RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom.
The 2006 no. 6 pilot, flying the opposing solo position, will be Capt. Ed Casey, currently assigned to the 56th Training Squadron, Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.
The new advance pilot/narrator, Thunderbird no. 8, the voice of the Thunderbirds, will be Capt. Tad Clark, currently assigned to the 52nd Operations Support Squadron, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.
Returning members of the 2005 team who will round out the 2006 team include:
- Maj. Rusty Keen, Thunderbird No. 2, left wing;
- Maj. Steve Horton, Thunderbird No. 4, Slot;
- Maj. Brian Farrar, Thunderbird No. 5, lead solo;
- Maj. Jeremy Sloane, Thunderbird No. 7, Operations Officer;
- Capt. Todd Randolph, Thunderbird No. 10, Executive Officer;
- and Capt. Angela Johnson, Thunderbird No. 12, Public Affairs Officer.
The team is also in the process of interviewing a new Thunderbird No. 9, the Flight Surgeon and a new Thunderbird No. 11, the Maintenance Officer.
Captain Nicole "Fifi" Malachowski
Captain Malachowski, 30, will turn a new page in history as the first female demonstration pilot on a U.S. military high performance jet team. The Blue Angels, the Navy's precision jet demonstration team, has never had a female pilot.
Malachowski is a 1996 graduate of the Air Force Academy She recently served four months in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Las Vegas, Nevada, native flies F-15 Strike Eagle fighter jets and is assigned to an Air Force unit based in England.
She'll begin training in the F-16 in November and will make her public debut with the Thunderbirds next March.
The Air Force has 568 female pilots, 71 of them flying fighter jets.
U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron
The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron is an Air Combat Command unit comprised of eight pilots (including six demonstration pilots), four support officers, four civilians and about 120 enlisted Airmen performing in more than 29 career specialties.
A Thunderbirds' demonstration is a mix of six aircraft, performing formation flying and solo routines. The four-aircraft diamond formation demonstrates the training and precision of Air Force pilots, while the solos highlight the maximum capabilities of the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon.
The team's first performance was June 8, 1953 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Since then, the Thunderbirds have flown before more than 310 million people at 3,944 air demonstrations in all 50 states and more than 60 foreign countries.
The process of earning a spot on the Thunderbirds takes months. Each candidate must have 1,000 hours flying in a fighter or trainer jet. Beginning in January, candidates submit letters of recommendation, a biography and a letter explaining why he or she would like to fly with the Thunderbirds.
After a series of interviews and a flight test at the Thunderbirds home base, five finalists are chosen. Three new members are selected from those finalists.