April 24, 1999 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Two Thunderbird F-16C Fighting Falcons were damaged April 25 when they contacted each other during a group formation take off at Patrick AFB. Aircraft no. 3 and no. 4 received minor damage as they began their air demonstration during the Air and Space Expo in Florida. Both aircraft landed safely and neither pilot was injured.
Repairs are being made during previously scheduled down time. The air demonstration was terminated. However, the team will fly a practice this week and plan to fly a show in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., this weekend. The remaining Thunderbird schedule remains unchanged. The mishap is under investigation.
Aircraft No. 3 flies off the lead pilot's right wing during formation flight and the No. 4 aircraft flies below and behind the lead pilot. The Thunderbirds squadron is an Air Combat Command unit composed of eight pilots (including six demonstration pilots), four support officers, three civilians and more than 130 enlisted people performing in 25 career fields.
A Thunderbirds air demonstration is a mix of formation flying and solo routines. The pilots perform approximately 30 maneuvers in a demonstration.
The entire show, including ground and air, runs about an hour and 15 minutes.
The season lasts from March to November, with the winter months used to train new members.