News 13 takes to the skies with The U.S Thunderbirds

News 13 takes to the skies with The U.S. Thunderbirds


Yuma, AZ- Within seconds we were over 13,000 feet in the air. Thunderbird # 7 Colonel Jason Koltes took News 13 out for a flight on an F-16 to show us what its like to be a Thunderbird.  

45 minutes in the air feels like a 10 min ride. We flew over the East restricted R2301 area. We dipped down low near a mountain range and we got close to the border.  

"It was an exhilarating time for sure for the both of us, as we too the air craft and put it in the air. We started with that max performance climb where we went from the surface to 13,000 feet in just a matter of seconds. Once we get out into the air we experienced some of the maneuvers that the guys will do within with 6 airplanes flying in formation. We did some of those maneuvers ourselves," says Colonel Koltes.   

We hit speeds up to 400 miles per hour, and got up to 7Gs during some of the fast turns. We did barrel rolls, we flew sideways and we even flew upside down.

"We got to the top of our loop maneuver, we were upside down we tell you to look outside and sure enough the ground is up and the sky is down. We push forward on the stick a little bit for you and you kinda get that light feeling in your seat and that's similar to what astronauts feel when they are up there," says Colonel Koltes. 

Learning to do these maneuvers doesn't come easy, the Thunderbirds pilots are some of the worlds most elite pilots. Each pilot has thousands of hours of flight time under their belt and every year they go on a tour across America to show off their skills.  

"Our mission is to go out and show the people of Yuma and throughout the world the pride and professionalism and precision of the United States Air Force airman and the 700,000 that make the mission happen," says Colonel Koltes.  

Before the flight, News 13 was given a 2 hour brief on how to fly and there's a lot to learn like how to breath, how to get in and out of the G-suits and how to eject safely in the case of an emergency. 

Luckily we didn't have to worry about the ejecting part but the breathing techniques came in handy. Breathing at these altitudes isn't easy with all the force and pressure your body experiences. 

After our time in the sky we made a smooth landing back at the Marine Corps Air Station. 

You can catch the Thunderbirds this Saturday at MCAS here in Yuma The Gates open at 8am and the show starts at 10am. Admission and parking is free.

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