U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform at Chennault International Airshow

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Published: May. 21, 2023 at 12:51 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - The airshow continued at Chennault International Airport and the Thunderbirds made sure to put on a show.

The Thunderbirds are an aviation team unlike any other; becoming a pilot is a rigorous process.

“In order to be qualified for the teams, they have to have 750 hours and be an instructor pilot in the different fighter platforms in the United States Military so in order to do that it takes numerous years to get up to that threshold that we ask of them,” Thunderbirds executive officer Randy Winther said.

Winther doesn’t fly the jet but she knows what it’s like to experience that rush of adrenaline.

“Being able to sit in the back seat of a thunderbird is probably something I wouldn’t have known was in the realm of possibility,” Winther said.

Maneuvering as a team as they soar through the sky requires extreme precision.

“They’re flying 18 inches apart and that’s not wing to wing, its wing tip to canopy to the next airplane in between us which is extremely close,” Winther said.

Winther said being a member of the team is more than just putting the uniform on.

“It’s about visiting areas that don’t necessarily have a military base around them so it’s being able to meet people from different backgrounds and different communities that we are able to inspire and influence to not only join the military but do what’s right in their community,” Winther said.

Winther said their next performance will be in Jones Beach, New York for Memorial Day weekend.