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Back in the air: Thunderbirds plan 66 shows in 2014

Dec. 27, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
The Air Force Thunderbirds' precision aerial maneuvers will once again be on display in 66 shows planned for 2014.
The Air Force Thunderbirds' precision aerial maneuvers will once again be on display in 66 shows planned for 2014. (Senior Airman DeAndre Curtiss/Air Force)
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THUNDERBIRDS’ SCHEDULE

After the Rose Bowl Parade flyover, here’s where you can expect to see the Thunderbirds:

DateShow
Feb. 23Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla.
March 9Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas
March 15-16Luke AFB, Ariz.
March 22-23MacDill AFB, Fla.
March 29-30Punta Gorda, Fla.
April 5-6Columbus AFB, Miss.
April 12-13Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.
DateShow
April 26-27Barksdale AFB, La.
May 3-4Travis AFB, Calif.
May 10-11Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.
May 17-18Youngstown Air Reserve Base, Ohio
May 24-25Cannon AFB, N.M.
May 28Air Force Academy, Colo.
May 31 - June 1Fairchild AFB, Wash.
June 7-8Rockford, Ill.
June 14-15Ocean City, Md.
June 21-22Tinker AFB, Okla.
June 28-29Hill AFB, Utah
July 5-6Battle Creek, Mich.
July 12-13Fair Oaks, Ind.
July 15Target Field, Minneapolis
July 23Cheyenne, Wyo.
DateShow
July 26-27Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
Aug. 2-3Oshkosh, Wis.
Aug. 9-10Ypsilanti, Mich.
Aug. 13Atlantic City, N.J.
Aug. 16-17Rochester, N.Y.
Aug. 23-24Waterloo, Iowa
Aug. 30-31Kalispell, Mont.
Sep. 13-14Altus AFB, Okla.
Sep. 20-21Mountain Home AFB, Idaho
Sep. 27-28Salinas, Calif.
Oct. 4-5Melbourne, Fla.
Oct. 11-12Daytona Beach, Fla.
Oct. 18-19Rome, Ga.
Oct. 25-26Fort Worth, Texas
Nov. 1-2Santa Teresa, N.M.
Nov. 8-9Nellis AFB, Nev.
Source: Air Force

The Thunderbirds, grounded last spring by sequester-driven budget cuts, will be back in the air in 2014. The Thunderbirds schedule will begin New Year’s Day with a flyover at the Rose Bowl Parade in Los Angeles, followed by a year of airshows and flyovers across the country.

In December, the team announced a schedule of 66 demonstrations at 34 locations this year, its 61st season.

“We’re really excited. It [2013] was a difficult year for us,” said Lt. Col. Greg Moseley, lead captain and commander of the team. “Not just us, for the entire Department of Defense and the Air Force.”

Budget cuts in April forced the service to ground 13 combat squadrons for four months, halting training missions and delaying the readiness of much of the service’s combat forces. The Thunderbirds were also caught in the grounding and became a much-talked-about focus of the budget cuts. The pilots took their time to do community outreach and take their story online, defending their mission of recruitment and serving as the public face of the Air Force.

Some said that the Thunderbird mission was expendable, that its public outreach is a luxury that could be put on hold until there is more funding.

But for Moseley and his crews, their mission was important, and they were itching to get back into the air.

“This is a great opportunity to reinforce the trust and confidence that the American people and the military have,” Moseley said.

In 2014, the Air Force still must cut back its outreach budget, being able to spend up to $47 million on all programs compared to the approximate $101 million budget it had pre-sequester. About $34 million will go to the Thunderbirds.

When fiscal 2014 began in October, the Thunderbirds started up Moseley’s “crawl, walk, run” model of training — beginning with basic flying skills and maneuvers. Eventually, two aircraft began flying together. Then three. In early December, the full four-ship formation began training together.

Now, they are flying twice a day to be ready to go on the road.

“Everybody from the youngest airman to myself is very, very excited to get back into the battle rhythm,” Moseley said. “All the pilots and maintainers are excited.”

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