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Thunderbirds pilot trainee returns home for SAFB air show

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — With some of the rain and wind Texoma saw Thursday, a particular set of jets didn’t make it to Sheppard Air Force Base as planned.

The Air Force Demonstration Squadron, best known as the Thunderbirds, is planning to perform at the Guardians of Freedom Sheppard Air Show this weekend.

The crosswinds made it unsafe for the Thunderbirds to take flight. However, weather permitting, the rest of the squadron will arrive Friday.

One of the pilots in training that has a special connection to Texoma.

Thunderbirds can fly 500 mph and fly between 3 feet and 18 inches apart in the sky while performing.

“It’s incredible, there’s nothing quite like it, I could compare it to a rollercoaster but it’s really better than that,” Thunderbird 8 advanced pilot and narrator Maj. Jason Markzon said.

“I used to watch the T-38s flying around and always knew I wanted to fly,” Wichita native and Thunderbirds pilot trainee Maj. Trevor Aldridge said.

A Wichita Falls native who also trained to be a pilot at SAFB is looking forward to being apart of the 2020–2021 demonstration team.

“There aren’t a whole lot of pilots on the team and so it’s still incredibly humbling, I’ve only been doing this on the team for about a month now and this weekend is kind of where it’s starting to really sink in what this patch means and the honored responsibility to go along with that,” Aldridge said.

A month under his wings, with someone to look up to and follow behind.

“The current Thunderbird No. 2, he actually was an instructor here for four years as well so the No. 2 has a legacy here in the Wichita area, the No. 2 left-wing pilot,” Aldridge said.

He’s back home with a whole new set of co-workers for the air show.

“We’re just happy to be here at Sheppard, which is like the home of a bunch of different training, so you have maintenance training, you have pilot training,” Markzon said. “Then there’s IFF here as well so we’re just happy to be here and put on a good show for everybody.”

A homecoming and a show in the sky that all will want to see fly by.

The Thunderbirds show lasts about 40 minutes with a number of loops and rolls you may not see anywhere else.

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