44°F
weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Thunderbirds amaze spectators with acrobatics

Many oldtimers fondly remember the comic book and television versions of “Superman,” and the astonishment of the anonymous characters when they saw something foreign flying overhead — “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman!”

Here in Nevada, people are still somewhat astonished when they see certain objects flying overhead performing aerial acrobatics. But in the latter case, it’s the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds. The group performs precision aerial maneuvers demonstrating the capabilities of Air Force high-performance aircraft to people throughout the world.

Young pilots — and would-be pilots — often wonder how hard it is to become a Thunderbird. Candidates for the ace aerobatic team must have at least 1,000 flying hours on a jet fighter and must be current on the F-16. And all candidates for the Thunderbirds must have at least three years (but no more than 12 years) of military service. Maj. Lauren “Threat” Schlichting is one of only six female pilots in the 69-year history of the squadron.

The organization gets its name from the legend of the thunderbird, which in Native American mythology is a powerful spirit in the form of a feathered vertebrate. By its work, the earth was watered and vegetation grew. Lightning was believed to flash from its beak, and the beating of its wings was thought to represent the rolling of thunder.

Each team member has a specialty. The commander/leader is Lt. Col. Justin Elliott. The position of left wing is held by Maj. Ian Lee and right wing is held Schlichting. The slot position is held by Maj. Zane Taylor, lead solo by Maj. Kyle Oliver and opposing solo by Capt. Daniel Katz. The operations officer is Lt. Col. Ryan Yingling and advance pilot/narrator is Maj. Jake Impellizzeri.

At a recent invitation-only “Evening With the USAF Thunderbirds,” I had an opportunity to briefly speak with Elliott. One of the questions I asked him concerned the combat-readiness of the Thunderbird pilots. There is little doubt that the men and women who fly their aircraft inches from each other while conducting aerial maneuvers are highly qualified and regularly trained. But should the United States ever have to go to war, what are the qualifications of the Thunderbirds? Elliott was quick to respond that in addition to regular Thunderbird training, the pilots also go through all the normal Air Force training that all its pilots must go through.

The Thunderbirds can be viewed this year at the upcoming Aviation Nation event at Nellis Air Force Base, where the team is stationed. Scheduled for Nov. 5 and 6, the event will feature aerial performers, static displays of numerous aircraft, exhibits, concessions and a kids’ zone. For more information about the air show, go to the Aviation Nation website, https://www.nellis.af.mil/Aviation-Nation/.

So, do younger folks who want to fly fighter jets have to become full-time Air Force members and move up the ranks? Well, there is at least one option when it comes to piloting military aircraft: join the National Guard or Air Force Reserve.

According to published reports, one of the biggest benefits of the guard and reserve is that one can specifically apply to the units that they want to join. If they meet qualifications, they can be hired with no military experience (and before signing any military service obligation) to fly the A-10, F-15, F-16, F-22, or F-35. Happy landings, folks.

Chuck N. Baker is an award-winning journalist and a Vietnam War Purple Heart veteran. He can be heard at 8:30 a.m. each Sunday on KKVV-AM hosting “That’s America to Me” and occasionally on KUNV-FM hosting “America’s Veterans, Today and Tomorrow.”

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Working together helps entire region

We’ve all heard the old adage, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” I find that statement to be so true for Southern Nevada. While the people of Boulder City have accomplished many amazing things over the past 92 years, there has always been a spirit of teamwork, collaboration and strong alliances that drive us forward.

Film fest returns to in-person schedule

After two years of trying to do everything online, Lee Lanier is ready to welcome live audiences back to the Dam Short Film Festival. The latest edition of the popular festival is scheduled to run Feb. 16-20 in downtown Boulder City.

Heat tolerance affected by location, proximity to wall

Q. After reading your recent gardening piece I have decided to take your advice and replace the bougainvillea and the western redbud with cat’s claw vine and an apricot and protect it with shade cloth. Is it better to plant a bareroot fruit tree or a potted one? Also, in this hot spot would a peach have as much chance as an apricot? As to shading the plants and wall should they be covered completely or built to only provide afternoon shade? My last question has to do with western redbud. I want to attempt to transplant it to a more favorable location. Is now a good time to transplant and are there steps I can take to help it survive?

Nevada’s Yesteryear: Controversy surrounds lake’s name

As stated by Nevada historian Phillip Earl, “Few of Nevada’s geological features have had a history of controversy quite like that of Lake Tahoe, which graces the California-Nevada border.”

Blatchford to represent BC in state pageant

Taylor Blatchford will be representing her beloved hometown by running as Miss Boulder City in the 2023 Miss Nevada competition June 22 and 23 at Bally’s Lake Tahoe in Stateline, Nevada.

Library takes families on storied path through town

An attraction set up by the Boulder City Library takes patrons on a path through local businesses to read a story as they walk.

Slow drains can lead to costly repairs

Nothing puts a kink in your kitchen or bathroom like a backed-up drain. Treat it quickly and avoid an out of commission sink, shower or tub. Let it go from slow drain to standing water and you’ll be in for a messy, smelly, unsanitary and potentially costly repair.

New year brings opportunities to ‘do something’

Happy new year! As we enter 2023, I hope everyone has enjoyed the holidays and is looking forward to the new year. Considerable progress and goal-setting have been happening, and I wanted to share some of that with you.

Senior Center, Jan. 5-11

Hours of operation: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday at 813 Arizona St., 702-293-3320. Visit the center’s website at www.seniorcenterbouldercity.org.