August 23, 2005 (by Lieven Dewitte) - After initially being grounded because of a mid-air collision at an air show in Chicago, the Thunderbirds will be ready to fly again this weekend at the Westfield International Air Show 2005, Massachusetts.
The USAF Thunderbirds during a display routine [USAF photo]
On Saturday, the F-16 flown by Major Steven Horton drifted into Major Chris Callaghan's jet during a diamond maneuver in which they are about 18 inches apart. Horton's missile rail fell off when it touched Callaghan's stabilizer. The pilots involved didn't even know the planes had touched.
They say it just felt like air turbulence so they kept pressing with the show until the safety advisor on the ground told them a piece fell off and stopped their performance.
The investigation will be handled internally as well as by an external military panel. In the meantime the same pilots will fly the same maneuvers.
Lt. Col. Chandler, who is flying in the number one position leading the formation, will review the procedures for flight maneuver before they go up again. Once each pilot feels confident in the positions the Thunderbirds will perform again.
No more shows have been canceled. This weekend the team will be in Westfield, Mass. The last time two Thunderbirds made contact in mid-air was during take off in Florida in 1999