The Air Force Thunderbirds will not take to the skies today at the Vectren Dayton Air Show following a Friday crash in which an F-16 jet evidently skidded off a runway and ended up on its top, injuring at least one of its two occupants.
The F-16 sustained significant damage, and it’s unclear whether the Thunderbirds will perform at the air show on Sunday.
The Thunderbirds are a popular draw at air shows and events across the globe, and the jets they fly are a well-known and celebrated part of military aircraft history. Here’s a few things to know about the planes and demonstration you may not get to see this weekend.
1. THE F-16: The Thunderbirds fly F-16 Fighting Falcon jets, which cost more than $18 million (in fiscal 1998 dollars) and weigh 19,700 pounds, without fuel. The jets have a wingspan of 32 feet, 8 inches and an engine thrust of 27,000 pounds. The planes, built by Lockheed Martin, can reach speeds of 1,500 mph (Mach 2 at altitude). There have been more than 4,500 F-16s built since the first one was assembled. The Thunderbirds fly the Fighting Faclon, but other F-16 jets were often known as the “Viper.”
2. THE THUNDERBIRDS: The Thunderbirds are the U.S. Air Force’s air demonstration squad. Thunderbirds put on about 80 air demonstrations in a typical season each year, and the group several years ago boasted that it had never cancelled a demonstration to maintenance difficulty. The Thunderbirds put on a show designed to highlight the capabilities of modern military aircraft while also displaying the skills and professionalism of pilots. The Thunderbirds were to headline the Vectren Dayton Air Show in June 2013, but the Air Force grounded the unit because of funding cuts related to sequestration. The unit has performed at the air show only once since then.
3. SWEET MOVES: The air demonstration is a mix of solo moves and planes flying in formation, including their signature four-jet diamond formation. Pilots perform about 40 aerial maneuvers during their demonstrations, including rolls, loops and bursts. Jets shoot past at dizzying speeds, flying just feet from the other planes. Pilots fly upside, belly-to-belly with other jets.