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Thunderbirds soar with the angels

March 4, 2010 (by TSgt Russ Martin) - Members of the Navy's Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, traded in their blue and gold F/A-18 Hornets to strap into an USAF red, white and blue Thunderbird F-16 Fighting Falcon on Thursday 4th.

Major Rick Goodman, Thunderbird No.5, Lead Solo, USAF Air Demonstration Squadron 'Thunderbirds' concludes his brief with U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Frank Weisser, Blue Angel No. 5, Lead Solo, USN Demonstration Squadron 'Blue Angels' on March 2nd, 2010 prior to take off at Nellis AFB, Nevada. [USAF photo by SSgt. Richard Rose]

Cmdr. Greg McWherter, Commander/Leader and Blue Angel No. 1; Marine Corps Officer, Maj. Chris Collins, Slot Pilot and Blue Angel No. 4; and Lt. Cmdr. Frank Weisser, Lead Solo and Blue Angel No. 5, participated in the program providing both storied teams the opportunity to share ideas and learn from each other as part of the two demonstration squadrons' traditional exchange program.

"It's just a great opportunity for both of our teams," said Lt. Cmdr. Weisser. "Though we are charged with the same responsibilities of representing our services and recruiting new members, we go about it in slightly different ways. This program gives us an opportunity to talk about how we accomplish our mission in the sky and on the ground. It's an awesome give and take of ideas and training."

Both Blue Angels took to the air with their Thunderbird counterparts as Lt. Cmdr. Weisser climbing into Thunderbird 5 with Maj. Rick Goodman, the team's Lead Solo; and Maj. Collins joined Thunderbird 4, Maj. Sean Gustafson, the team's Slot Pilot, to experience how the Air Force's Air Demonstration Squadron executes their mission.

"You know it was great free-flow of ideas," said Maj. Gustafson. "In the air and on the ground Maj. Collins was pointing out similarities and differences in how we accomplish the mission -not only in the air, but also our processes in the offices, scheduling and launching aircraft. It's just great to see how our two teams go about business and represent not only our services, but our country as well."

The Thunderbirds have been dazzling and inspiring crowds worldwide for 57 years, and the Blue Angels are heading into their 64th year performing air demonstrations.

"It's funny, people often ask who's better," said Maj. Collins. "I think the 'rivalry' that people speak of is born of pride in their uniformed service which is great. But both the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds take pride in not only representing their services but America's capability as a whole. We're a team. We may be of different services, but our goal is to show off the pride, precision and professionalism of America's soldiers, sailors, Airmen and Marines who serve the country every day at home and abroad. And that goal unifies us, and reinforces that strong bond of camaraderie between our two great teams."

Maj. John Baum, Thunderbird 2 and the team's left wing; and Lt. Col. Derek Routt, Thunderbird 7 and the team's operations officer will head to the Blue Angels' training base at Naval Air Force El Centro, Calif., to shadow their counterparts for a day, later in the week.

Both teams are gearing up for their 2010 show seasons that will take the Thunderbirds to 38 locations and 73 shows across the United States and Canada and the Blue Angels to more than 70 shows at 34 locations throughout the country.

Courtesy of Thunderbird Public Affairs

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