Thunderbirds certified by COMACC for 2022 show season

News
Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command, speaks with Maj. Lauren Schlichting, United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” pilot, and Lt. Col. Justin Elliott, USAFADS “Thunderbirds” commander/leader, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Mar. 10, 2022. The Thunderbirds require multiple certifications in order to perform at air shows around the world. Receiving COMACC’s certification was the final step for the 2022 team to be show ready. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Laurel Richards)


By Senior Airman Breanna Carter

Air Force Thunderbirds

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) —  

The United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, known as the “Thunderbirds,” recently completed their certification for the 2022 show season. 

Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command, certified the Thunderbirds after a rigorous four-month-training season. This certification ensures the safety of the team and the maneuvers. 

“The experience gained through the new training syllabus and training trip … it shows,” Kelly said. “I am proud to announce the official certification of the Thunderbirds for the 2022 season.” 

Beginning in 2020, the team adopted a driven “accelerate change or lose” mentality, culminating in significant improvements to the demonstration and the training syllabus. 

The 2022 team executed the new training syllabus for the first time this year, exercising all parts of the team – logistics, maintenance, public affairs, and show center operations – at multiple training sites, including its first full six-ship show, complete with music and narration. 

The new training syllabus, combined with training at multiple deployed locations, allowed the team to reach their 50th practice show on March 10, approximately 25 full practice shows ahead of schedule. 

“This is a culmination of all of our hard work through an unprecedented winter training deployment and today’s certification demonstration would not have been possible if we hadn’t seen similar challenging situations in Spaceport and Fort Huachuca,” said Lt. Col. Justin Elliott, Thunderbirds commander/leader. “From a whole-team perspective, this is the most prepared Thunderbirds squadron in generations. 


“We have to continue driving forward from here; to continue building on this team’s 68.5 years of excellence in the name of service to something greater than ourselves.” 

The team will have executed an entire show season worth of training demonstrations (approximately 60 shows); to include ground show, communications, narration, music and logistics, before beginning their actual show season March 26. 

Now that the certification is complete, the Thunderbirds can officially kick-off the 2022 season to accomplish their mission to ‘Recruit, Retain and Inspire,’ while demonstrating the incredible capabilities of the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter jet, the F-16 Fighting Falcon

The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds”, taxis down the runway after their performance during Air Show Turkiye 2011 at Cigli Air Base, June 5. The Thunderbirds performed alongside other world renowned aerial demonstration teams, to honor 100 years of Turkish aviation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr., Released)

“The [certification] conditions were tough and not unlike what the team will see on the road this year,” said Kelly. “But they were able to mitigate risk appropriately and execute an incredible demonstration. Everything we do in this team, which is America’s team, is about performing extraordinary aviation tasks extraordinarily well with uncompromising standards of professionalism.” 

For more information on the Thunderbirds and dates for upcoming shows, please visit airforce.com/thunderbirds or follow us on social media @afthunderbirds.