As Thunderbirds get ready for Wichita airshow, we take you through our archives to show the team's incredible history
WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - It's a sound just about anyone in the Air Capital will recognize – the piercing roar of the Thunderbirds' F-16 fighter jets ripping through the skies.
Taking a look through the KAKE News archives, Thunderbird pilots have all felt the same way about being on this elite team.
"You know, we always strive for perfection in every single thing the Thunderbirds do," said a pilot on the 1983 team.
"That's all I've ever wanted to be was an Air Force pilot and a Thunderbird," said another pilot.
But in 1982, tragedy struck.
"The black streak on the ground is where the four T-38 trainers slammed into the desert at high speed," said a 1982 news reporter.
"One or more of the aircraft collided, causing all four to eventually crash," said 1982 Air Force Spokesman Mike Wallace.
All four pilots died.
The Air Force shut down the program, switched from the T-38 trainer to the still-used F-16 fighters, and 18 months after the tragic crash, were back in the air doing shows.
"Over the past three decades, the Thunderbirds have performed their popular maneuvers in all 50 states, and 45 foreign countries," said the reporter covering the 1983 return show.
Fast forward to now…
"These are all the countries we've gone to in our 69-year history," said Thunderbird pilot Daniel Katz, showing us his jet.
It's now up to 58 countries.
Being part of this team is something Katz says he wouldn't trade for anything, and he can't wait for Saturday's show in Wichita.
"The hope really is to have a phenomenal show. Hopefully the weather cooperates, and I think it's supposed to be pretty sunny. But really, once again, showcase what the Air Force can do, and show that we are a powerful force as well as a good force. And show that to all the people of Kansas," said Katz.
The Thunderbirds will fly Saturday and Sunday at 3 pm. For more information on logistics and parking, click here.