A brand new cohort of Thunderbird pilots has been introduced because the U.S. Air Pressure’s premier aerial demonstration squadron heads into the 2019 season and shakes off a sequence of aircraft accidents that plagued the elite pilots over the previous few years.
A few of the seasoned Thunderbird pilots are getting moved up the stack whereas new ones are introduced into the rotation, Air Combat Command introduced Friday. There are a dozen officer positions on the crew, every of that are two-year excursions.
“By design, the place openings are staggered, permitting the squadron to take care of continuity of expertise and management,” based on the unit announcement.
“This 12 months’s distinctive officer applicant pool displays the unbelievable diploma of expertise, motivation and variety that exists all through our Air Pressure. It was a tricky choice course of, however in the end these officers rose to the highest,” stated Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, the outgoing Thunderbird commander. “The Thunderbirds are proud to welcome these leaders aboard as they assume duty for showcasing the delight, precision and professionalism of greater than 660,000 whole pressure Airmen serving all over the world.”
The unit’s new commander and Thunderbird No. 1 shall be Lt. Col. John Caldwell. He’s at present serving because the commander of the 28th Take a look at and Analysis Squadron at Eglin Air Pressure Base, Florida. As a part of Caldwell’s two-fold title, he’ll command a pressure of greater than 120 enlisted airmen and 11 officers, in addition to lead all of the Thunderbirds’ flight demonstrations. Caldwell replaces Walsh in that position.
Caldwell is a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions dropping ordnance in a danger-close situation on enemy parts attacking U.S. and allied forces in Nuristan province, Afghanistan, in 2011, based on a 2012 Air Pressure press release.
Capt. Michael Brewer, from the 334th Fighter Squadron out of Seymour Johnson Air Pressure Base, North Carolina, was chosen as Thunderbird No. 3, the crew’s proper wing pilot. Brewer is changing Maj. Nate Hofmann.
“He’ll fly as shut as Three toes from the No. 1 jet throughout flight formations, demonstrating the teamwork and precision of America’s Air Pressure,” based on the unit press launch.
Maj. Whit Collins, who beforehand flew because the lead solo pilot, will transition to the slot pilot place as Thunderbird No. 4. Just like Brewer’s position, Collins will fly in shut formation with the opposite demonstration pilots, close to the tail of the No. 1 plane and between the 2 wingmen. Collins replaces Maj. Nick Krajicek.
Capt. Michelle Curran, from the 355th Fighter Squadron out of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Price, Texas, was chosen as Thunderbird No. 6, the crew’s opposing solo pilot.
The solo pilot performs maneuvers showcasing the utmost capabilities of the F-16 plane.
In the meantime, Maj. Matt Kimmel, the present opposing solo pilot, will transition to the lead solo place in 2019.
Maj. Jason Markzon, beforehand an F-16 pilot assigned to the 13th Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan, will turn into Thunderbird No. 8, the crew’s advance pilot and narrator.
Markzon’s duties embody heading to point out websites forward of the bigger crew, coordinating logistical particulars with the native present organizers and narrating to the group throughout performances. He’s changing Maj. Branden Felker.
Lastly, Lt. Col. Noel Colls, a medical physician, flight surgeon and household apply resident assigned to the 60th Medical Operations Squadron, Travis Air Pressure Base, California, will turn into Thunderbird No. 9, the crew’s flight surgeon.
Colls will present medical take care of greater than 130 squadron members and hold the crew in optimum well being. Colls will substitute Maj. William Goncharow on this position.
The brand new lineup comes after a sequence of high-profile incidents that highlighted the nonetheless harmful nature of the crew’s aerial demonstrations.
In early April, Thunderbird pilot Maj. Stephen Del Bagno was killed in an F-16 crash on the Nevada Take a look at and Coaching vary, throughout what the Air Pressure referred to as a routine aerial demonstration coaching flight.
Then, final June, an F-16D from the Thunderbirds crashed on the Dayton Worldwide Airport in Ohio after touchdown too quick and skidding off a moist runway. The plane overturned on grass, destroying the $29 million fighter jet and injuring the pilot.
Additionally final 12 months, the previous Thunderbirds commander, Lt. Col. Jason Heard, was relieved of command after the commander of the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Pressure Base in Nevada “misplaced confidence in his management and danger administration fashion,” the Air Pressure stated on the time. Heard had taken command in January 2017, and was successfully relieved on the conclusion of the 2017 season.
Lastly, in June 2016, a Thunderbird pilot crashed after a flyover of the Air Pressure Academy’s commencement ceremony. The Accident Investigation Board that reviewed that incident stated the crash was brought on by a malfunctioning throttle set off. That pilot ejected and landed safely, however the $29 million F-16CM was destroyed.