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Thunderbirds Take Flight at California Capital Airshow

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, September 6, 2012

The United States Air Force Thunder Birds are in Sacramento this weekend for the California Capital Air Show.

There's nothing quite like the noise of an F-16 flying by. And at 600 miles-per-hour, they're hard to track.  If you're trying to find one based on the sound, you're likely looking way behind it. 

Lieutenant Colonel Jason Koltes is one of the pilots flying in this week's practice sessions, "There's about 45 different formations that the guys will fly and each one of them will require a different position by each player."

This weekend, he'll be directing traffic from the ground, "Some of the formation's are just movements of a couple of inches that put you in the right spot and as a formation changes or passes in front of the crowd or in front of a show center marking some of the formations change as well."

Koltes says this is one of those things where you can't have enough practice, "From the middle of November to the middle of March every year -that's our training season.  And it's twice a day just as many sorties as we can fly to get new pilots upgraded.  And then from there, every week, we have to fly four demonstrations or practices to keep the currency.  And it's a skill flying the formations that deteriorates very quickly.  So, it's very critical to keep that practice up."

The weather should cooperate and allow the Thunderbirds to show off their full array of maneuvers. 
Besides the Thunderbirds, there will be two dozen other performers -including vintage World War II planes, fixed wing aircraft and, down on the ground, a jet car race.  Organizers say about 50,000 people turned out for the show last year.
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