Aviation Week & Space Technology

Aviation Week Flies With The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds

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ANDREWS AFB – Aviation Week’s Pentagon Editor Lara Seligman flew in the backseat of U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds F-16 Sept. 13 for an up-close-and-personal look at the Thunderbirds’ show routine. "We got a little dizzy doing a quadruple aileron roll, flew upside-down during the inverted-to-inverted pass, pushed through the intense, high-G 'max-turn half Cuban eight' and more," said Lara. 

Watch as Lara joins Thunderbird No. 7 Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, a career F-16 pilot, as he runs through the Thunderbirds’ best-known maneuvers one by one in the skies over the eastern U.S. This is Walsh's last year with the Thunderbirds—next up he is hoping to become squadron commander at Osan AFB, South Korea.  

Discuss this Video 10

on Sep 18, 2017

Fascinating watching the wing leading edges...

on Sep 18, 2017

I broke into a sweat just watching this.

on Sep 18, 2017

I found it interesting to see little bits of stuff (dirt?) flying about the cockpit and then resting on the canopy during inverted maneuvers.

on Sep 18, 2017

Congratulation, Lara!

on Sep 18, 2017

Lara: well done! Your masked stayed on your face and it appears as though you did not fill a barf bag. So, your thoughts on high-G maneuvering for a living? And to another reader who commented on wing chatter--vibration; this is visible in one form or another in every fighter. In the F-15, the vertical stabilizers chatter as do the wings. It's normal and makes its own points about gradual airframe fatigue among all Gen 4 fighters.

on Sep 18, 2017

Very impressive video.I remember a similar video with a BBC reporter flying in a Red Arrows Hawk, but the male reporter was no as strong as Lara. I assume she did some training before catching a flight with the Thunderbirds.

on Sep 18, 2017

Not being used to flying like this, I wonder how she kept from tossing her cookies. I have read that that all new pilots have to learn how not to toss their cookies.

on Sep 18, 2017

Looked like you needed to tighten the harness. When you went inverted you lifted out of your seat a fair amount.

on Sep 19, 2017

I loved the "I didn't g-lock!" fist pump. Was good to describe the maneuvers but would have liked to hear less canned your impressions of the flight.

on Sep 20, 2017

As a former F/A-18 instructor, I gave a lot of these Media rides to civilian individuals. Almost everyone to the person did not enjoy the flight when the profile included fast and high G flight.They usually said they did, but their white complexion and multiple barf bags gave away their true colors. It takes years of training and skill to get comfortable in this environment and then still extremely challenging for even the best of the best. One thing that's not mentioned very much and should be, it's the time at high G which is so painful. Anyone can handle 6-9 G's over a second or two, it's the 6-7.5 G's for 30-45 seconds which is so gut-wrenching.
This is why the offended heard saying by the older fighter pilots was the call of "Redefine the fight". Which translated to taking the aircraft more vertically and thus less G's.
P.S. For djanes- Any time inverted flight is included in a profile, the pilots are strapped in as tight as possible. There is only so much you can do, gravity always wins.

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