Fighter Jet News

F-16 Fighting Falcon News

Thunderbirds select 2nd female pilot for the 2007 season

June 6, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, "Thunderbirds," have announced their new officers for the 2007 demonstration season.

Capt. Samantha Weeks, 12th FS, enters her F-15C prior to a training mission at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. Captain Weeks was one of three pilots recently selected to fly with the United States Air Force Thunderbirds. When she leaves Elmendorf, Captain Weeks will spend approximately two months at Luke AFB, Ariz. for F-16 transition training before heading to Nellis AFB, Nev. [USAF photo by SSgt. Rhiannon]

Joining the team on the left wing position at Thunderbird no. 2 will be Maj. Chris Austin, currently assigned to the 57th Wing, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

The slot pilot, Thunderbird no. 4, will be Maj. William Poteet, currently assigned to the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, Nellis.

The 2007 no. 6 pilot, flying the opposing solo position, will be Capt. Samantha Weeks, currently assigned to the 12th Fighter Squadron, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.

The operations officer, Thunderbird no. 7, the team' second in command, will be Maj. Robert Skelton, currently assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Forces Europe, Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
The team's newest executive officer, Thunderbird no. 10, will be Capt. Amy Glisson, currently assigned to Air Force District of Washington at Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C.

Joining the team as the maintenance officer, Thunderbird no. 11, is Capt. Charles Ploetz, currently assigned at 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

Rounding out the newest 2007 officers is the public affairs officer, Thunderbird no. 12, Capt. Elizabeth Kreft, currently stationed at the 1st Fighter Wing, Langley Air Force Base, Va.

Returning to lead the team for a second season as commander/leader is Lt Col Kevin Robbins, Thunderbird no. 1. The other returning members of the 2006 team who will complete the 2007 team include: Maj. Nicole Malachowski, Thunderbird no. 3, right wing; Maj. Ed Casey, Thunderbird no. 5, lead solo; Maj. Tad Clark, Thunderbird no. 8, advance pilot and narrator; and Maj. (Dr) Dan Mirski, Thunderbird no. 9, the team's flight surgeon.

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 4,005 air demonstrations in all 50 states and more than 60 foreign countries. The 2007 season is the 54th in the team's history.

Additional images:

Nice view of a tandem T-birds transfer flight. [ATAP Archive photo]

Waiting for the next demonstration. [USAF photo]