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THUNDERBIRDS VS BLUE ANGELS: THE RETURN OF THE AIR SHOWS


By Jamie Rogers

Introduction

LOOK! Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Yes! It’s the return of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels! These two aerobatic teams — literal highlights of air shows and open houses at military installations all across the nation — are ready to soar to new heights in their first season after similar events were cancelled during the COVID pandemic in 2020. Instead, both teams participated in fly-overs of hospitals and other facilities to honor health care professionals and first-responders. Want to see each team’s schedule for this year and learn some cool facts about them? Fly ahead to the section that interests you most:

Thunderbirds vs. Blue Angels

So is one flight team better than the other, or is there a Thunderbirds vs. Blue Angels rivalry? Not really. Both teams are incredibly talented and train untold hours year-round to delight fans of flight everywhere. And as evidenced in this video, the two teams may fly different jets, wear different uniforms and serve in different branches of the military, but their missions are the same: to showcase the professionalism and precision of the men and women in service to our country. Who are the Thunderbirds?

Who are the Thunderbirds?

Officially known as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds present precision aerial maneuvers to exhibit the capabilities of modern, high performance aircraft and the high degree of professional skill required to operate those aircraft. The squadron is an Air Combat Command unit composed of eight pilots (including six demonstration pilots), four support officers, four civilians and more than 100 enlisted personnel performing in almost 30 job specialties. Flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the pilots perform about 40 maneuvers during special demonstrations that build community relations with the public and strengthen morale among Air Force members. More than 280 million people in all 50 states and 57 foreign countries have seen the red, white and blue Thunderbirds jets in more than 3,500 aerial demonstrations. Want to know who’s who of the Ambassadors in Blue? Read short biographies of the team’s current officers here.

Thunderbirds History

The Thunderbirds officially activated June 1, 1953, as the 3600th Air Demonstration Unit at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. Initially, the team flew the straight-winged F-84G Thunderjet. In 1955, the team transitioned to the swept-winged F-84F Thunderstreak. Suggested Read: Luke Air Force Base: In-Depth Welcome Center In June 1956, the team moved to its current home at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and switched to the world's first supersonic fighter, the F-100 Super Sabre, which served the Thunderbirds for 13 years. Suggested Read: Nellis Air Force Base: In-Depth Welcome Center From 1969 to 1973, the squadron flew the Air Force’s front-line fighter, the F-4E Phantom II, then converted to the T-38 Talon in 1974. Early in 1983, the F-16A became the jet of choice, exhibiting manpower and fuel efficiency while demonstrating to spectators the latest in fighter technology. Thunderbirds Air Show Schedule 2022

Thunderbirds Air Show Schedule 2021

Want to see these amazing displays of aerobatics in person? Check this lineup to see when the Thunderbirds will be rolling into a community near you! Check each event’s website for admission policies, extended schedules and more info.

May 2021

1-2: Sound of Speed Airshow & 139AW Open House, St. Joseph, Missouri 8-9: Defenders of Liberty Air & Space Show, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana 26: USAFA Graduation 2021 Flyover, Colorado Springs, Colorado 29-30: Bethpage Airshow at Jones Beach, Wantagh, New York

June 2021

5-6: The Great Tennessee Air Show, Smyrna, Tennessee 19-20: OC Air Show, Ocean City, Maryland

July 2021

10-11: Dayton Air Show, Dayton, Ohio 17-18: Greater Binghamton Air Show, Binghamton, New York 24-25: Milwaukee Air & Water Show, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 28: Cheyenne Frontier Days, F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming 31-Aug. 1: Oregon International Air Show, McMinnville, Oregon

August 2021

7-8: Thunder Over Michigan Air Show, Ypsilanti, Michigan 18: Thunder Over the Boardwalk Air Show, Atlantic City, New Jersey 21-22: The Great Pocono Raceway Air Show, Pocono, Pennsylvania 28-29: New York International Air Show, New Windsor, New York

September 2021

4-6: Cleveland National Air Show, Cleveland, Ohio 11-12: Pease Open House, Portsmouth, New Hampshire 18-19: National Championship Air Races, Reno, Nevada 25-26: California Capital Air Show, Mather, California

October 2021 

2-3: 2021 Puerto Rico International Air Show, San Juan, Puerto Rico 9-10: Wings Over Houston Air Show, Houston, Texas 16-17: Central Florida Air & Space Show, Sanford, Florida 23-24: Los Angeles County Air Show, Lancaster, California 30-31: California International Air Show, Salinas, California

November 2021

6-7: Thunder and Lightning Over Arizona, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona

Thunderbirds Air Show Schedule 2022

March 2022

19-20:

Luke Days Air & Space Expo; Luke AFB, Arizona

26-27:

Wings Over Columbus; Columbus AFB, Mississippi

April 2022

2-3:

Thunder Over the Midlands; Shaw AFB, South Carolina

9-10:

SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo; Lakeland, Florida

23-34:

JBSA Kelly Field Air & Space Show; JB San Antonio-Randolph, Texas

30-May 1:

Fort Lauderdale Air Show; Fort Lauderdale, Florida

May 2022

14-15:

March Field Air & Space Expo; March ARB, California

25:

USAFA Graduation 2022 Flyover; Colorado Springs, Colorado

June 2022

4-5:

Fort Wayne Open House & Air Show; Fort Wayne, Indiana

11-12:

OC Air Show; Ocean City, Maryland

18-19:

Grand Forks AFB Air Show; Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota

25-26:

Warriors Over the Wasatch Air & Space Show; Hill AFB, Utah

July 2022

2-3:

Field of Flight Air Show & Balloon Festival; Battle Creek, Michigan

16-17:

Duluth Air and Aviation Expo; Duluth, Minnesota

23-24:

Fight Over the Falls; Great Falls, Montana

27:

Cheyenne Frontier Days; Cheyenne, Wyoming

30-31:

Arctic Thunder Air Show; JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska

August 2022

20-21:

Chicago Air & Water Show; Chicago, Illinois

24:

Atlantic City Air Show; Atlantic City, New Jersey

27-28:

Scranton Armed Forces Air Show; Avoca, Pennsylvania

September 2022

3-4:

KC Air Show; New Century, Kansas

10-11:

Maryland Fleet Week & Air Show Baltimore; Baltimore, Maryland

17-18:

JB Andrews Air Show; JB Andrews, Maryland

24-25:

Frontiers in Flight Open House & Air Show; McConnell AFB, Kansas

October 2022

1-2:

The Great Pacific Air Show; Huntington Beach, California

15-16:

Aerospace Valley Air Show; Edwards AFB, California

22-23:

Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show; Fort Worth, Texas

29-30:

Central Florida Air & Space Show; Sanford, Florida

November 2022

5-6:

Aviation Nation Air Show; Nellis AFB, Nevada Who are the Blue Angels?

Who are the Blue Angels?

The Blue Angels squadron showcases the pride and professionalism of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service through flight demonstrations and community outreach. Each year, 17 total officers voluntarily serve with the Blue Angels; among them are three tactical (fighter or fighter/attack) jet pilots, two support officers and one Marine Corps C-130 pilot to relieve departing members. Officers typically serve two years with the team then return to the fleet after their tours of duty. The Chief of Naval Air Training selects the Blue Angels Commanding Officer. Known as the “Boss,” the officer must have at least 3,000 tactical jet flight-hours and have commanded a tactical jet squadron. The Boss flies the team’s Number 1 jet. Navy and Marine Corps jet pilots with an aircraft carrier qualification and a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet flight-hours are eligible for positions flying jets Number 2 through 7. The Events Coordinator, Number 8, is a Naval Flight Officer or a Weapons Systems Officer who meets the same criteria as Numbers 2 through 7. The Marine Corps pilots flying the C-130T Hercules aircraft, affectionately known as "Fat Albert," must be aircraft-commander qualified and have at least 1,200 flight hours. The team is stationed at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, during the air show season. The squadron spends January through March training at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California. Suggested Read: Naval Air Station Pensacola: In-Depth Welcome Center Click these links to read more about the Blue Angels team officers, the enlisted maintenance and support team, and the technical representatives. Suggested Read: Naval Air Facility El Centro: In-Depth Welcome Center Blue Angels History

Blue Angels History

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Chester Nimitz established the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron in 1946 to raise the public's interest in naval aviation and boost Navy morale. The flight exhibition team, whose name became the Blue Angels (possibly after visiting a New York supper club of the same name), thrilled audiences throughout the 1940s with precision maneuvers in the F6 Hellcat, the F8 Bearcat and the F9 Panther. Throughout the 1950s, the team evolved its aerobatic maneuvers in the F9 Cougar and F-11 Tiger and introduced the first six-plane delta formation, still flown today. By the end of the Blue Angels were flying the F-4 Phantom, the only two-seat aircraft flown by the delta formation. In 1974, the team transitioned to the A-4 Skyhawk, a smaller and lighter aircraft that allowed for a more dynamic flight demonstration. In 1986, the Blue Angels celebrated their 40th anniversary by debuting the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet, which the squadron still flies today. Read more about the history of the Angels and see a gallery of their vintage aircraft here. Blue Angels Air Show Schedule 2021

Blue Angels Air Show Schedule 2021

Eager to see the Blue Angels soar toward the heavens in person? Take a look at this schedule to find their amazing flight shows near you! Check each event’s website for admission policies, extended schedules and more info.

May 2021

1-2: Wings Over South Texas, Corpus Christi, Texas 8-9: Fort Lauderdale Air Show, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 15-16: Great Florida Air Show, Melbourne, Florida 26: U.S. Naval Academy Air Show; Annapolis, Maryland 28: U.S. Naval Academy Commissioning Flyover; Annapolis, Maryland 29-30: Westmoreland County Air Show, Latrobe, Pennsylvania

June 2021

5-6: Chennault International Air Show, Lake Charles, Louisiana 12-13: Deke Slayton Airfest, La Crosse, Wisconsin 19-20: Thunder of Niagara @ Buffalo, Niagara Falls, New York 26-27: Duluth Air and Aviation Expo, Duluth, Minnesota

July 2021

3-4: KC Air Show, New Century, Kansas 10: Pensacola Beach Air Show, Pensacola Beach, Florida 24-25: Fargo AirSho, Fargo, North Dakota 31: Arctic Lightning Air Show, Eielson AFB, Alaska

August 2021

1: Arctic Lightning Air Show, Eielson AFB, Alaska 7-8: Boeing Seafair Air Show, Seattle, Washington 14-15: Owensboro Air Show, Owensboro, Kentucky 21-22: Chicago Air and Water Show, Chicago, Illinois 28-29: Air Show London, London, Ontario, Canada

September 2021

4-5

:

The Great Cape Cod Air Show, JB Cape Cod, Massachusetts 18-19: NAS Oceana Air Show, NAS Oceana, Virginia 25-26: MCAS Miramar Air Show, MCAS Miramar, California

October 2021

2-3:

The Great Pacific Air Show; Huntington Beach, California

9-10:

San Francisco Fleet Week; San Francisco, California

16-17:

The Great Colorado Air Show; Loveland, Colorado

23-24:

Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show; Fort Worth, Texas

30-31:

Wings Over North Georgia; Rome, Georgia

November 2021

5-6: NAS Pensacola Homecoming Airshow; NAS Pensacola, Florida

Blue Angels Air Show Schedule 2022

March 2022

12:

NAF El Centro Annual Air Show; NAF El Centro, California

19-20:

New Orleans Air Show; NAS New Orleans, Louisiana

26-27:

MacDill Air Fest; MacDill AFB, Florida

April 2022

2-3:

Wings Over South Texas; NAS Kingsville, Texas

9-10:

JB Charleston Air Show; JRB Charleston, South Carolina

23-24

: Vidalia Air Show; Vidalia, Georgia

30:

Vero Beach Air Show; Vero Beach, Florida

May 2022

1:

Vero Beach Air Show; Vero Beach, Florida

7-8:

Power in the Pines Open House and Air Show; McGuire AFB, New Jersey

14-15:

Ellsworth AFB Air Show; Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota

25:

U.S. Naval Academy Air Show; USNA Annapolis, Maryland

27:

U.S. Naval Academy Air Show; USNA Annapolis, Maryland

28-29:

Jones Beach Air Show; Jones Beach, New York

June 2022

4-5:

Chippewa Valley Air Show; Eau Claire, Wisconsin

11-12:

Spirit of St. Louis Air Show; Chesterfield, Missouri

18-19:

Memphis Air Show; Millington, Tennessee

July 2022

2-4:

National Cherry Festival Air Show; Traverse City, Michigan

9:

Pensacola Beach Air Show; Pensacola Beach, Florida

16-17:

Thunder Over Michigan Air Show; Ypsilanti, Michigan

23-24:

Milwaukee Air and Water Show; Milwaukee, Wisconsin

30-31:

Dayton Air Show; Dayton, Ohio

August 2022

6-7:

Boeing SeaFair Air Show; Seattle, Washington

13-14:

Kaneohe Bay Air Show; MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii

20-21:

Oregon International Air Show; McMinnville, Oregon

September 2022

3-5:

Cleveland National Air Show; Cleveland, Ohio

10-11:

Knoxville Air Show; Knoxville, Tennessee

17-18:

NAS Oceana Air Show; NAS Oceana, Virginia

24-25:

MCAS Miramar Air Show; MCAS Miramar, California

October 2022

1-2:

Aviation Roundup Air Show; Minden, Nevada

8-9:

San Francisco Fleet Week; San Francisco, California

22-23:

NAS JAX Air Show; NAS Jacksonville, Florida

29-30:

Wings Over Houston Air Show; Houston, Texas

November 2022

5-6:

Peachtree City Air Show; Peachtree City, Georgia

11-12:

NAS Pensacola Homecoming Air Show; NAS Pensacola, Florida

Conclusion

There’s no denying both the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels put on a super show wherever they go. Count yourself lucky if you’re able to catch the loops, rolls, inverted passes, fleur de lis and more that are part of their typically 30- to 40-minute performances at each special event. Have no fear, though — both teams already have 2022 schedules if you can’t see them in the skies this season. Want to keep track of these amazing teams as they train and travel the nation? Follow the Thunderbirds social media pages on Facebook and Twitter and the Blue Angels on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also check the schedule pages for Thunderbirds and Blue Angels for any updates for this year’s shows.

Last Updated:

9/17/2021

The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.


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