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Thunderbolt pilot selected for Thunderbirds

March 9, 2010 (by 2nd Lt. Ryan DeCamp) - Luke Air Force Base's Capt. Kristin Hubbard's almost eight-year Air Force career includes stops in Canada, Korea, Alaska, Guam and Jordan among other places. Her next stop could have her visiting all those spots in one-eighth of that time period.

USAF Air Demonstration Squadron 'Thunderbirds', no. 8 jet taxis down the flight line on January 5th, 2010.

The Thunderbirds, the Air Force's F-16 aerial demonstration team, recently selected Captain Hubbard, 62nd Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, as their newest member.

She will be Thunderbird 8, meaning she will narrate the Thunderbirds' performances. She will also serve as the advance pilot.

"It's awesome," she said. "I'm overwhelmed with excitement, honor and responsibility that come with being the No. eight. As the advance pilot, I'm the first person to show up at a location, the first to meet the media and the first person to meet kids and talk to them about what I do."

Captain Hubbard says she is excited to interact with all the friends and family of the people she is going to meet.

"I'm looking forward to hearing people's stories, listening to the mothers and fathers talk about their deployed Airmen," she said. "Essentially what we do is represent those deployed Airmen."

After getting letters of recommendation, watching the team at a performance and two initial rounds of interviews, the Thunderbirds picked her over four other pilots after a final interview.

"The question that always came up was why I wanted to be a Thunderbird," she said. "I want to showcase the Air Force. I want to be part of an awesome team that represents our Air Force, seven days a week, in or out of uniform."

Becoming an Air Force Thunderbird is not bad for someone who never flew in an aircraft until they were 17-years-old.

"I sat in the window of the plane and couldn't take my eyes off of looking outside," she said. "My family was laughing because I was 17 years old acting like I was five. After that I knew I wanted to be in aviation."

She had family members who worked for a major airline producer in Seattle, Wash., but did not have any family who spent their career in the military. Her grandfather took her to aircraft museums, which she says pointed her toward making aviation a career.

"I did aeronautical engineering at the University of Washington and loved the design, aerodynamics and propulsion," she said. "I absolutely loved the science and math part of it. The more I did it though, the more I realized I wanted to do a spin off of that, which was a little more hands on."

A friend waiting to head to pilot training suggested she show up at the university's Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps detachment. Her response was, "What's a detachment?"

"I went and joined without signing my name anywhere and fell in love," she said. "I loved the teamwork, family atmosphere and focus on the team succeeding."

Captain Hubbard says she has always liked to be challenged, which is why she enjoyed being an instructor pilot so much. Her next challenge will have her with the team for two years.

According to the Thunderbirds Web site, they have more than 35 performances lined up through the end of 2010. The team's most recent show at Luke AFB included performing in front of more than 215,000 people.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for me to go out and share what the Air Force does with the rest of the world," she added.

Courtesy of 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Additional images:

The Thunderbirds brand-new block 52 no. 8 on display in Puerto Rico on April 18th, 2009. [Photo by Hector A. Rivera]