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Thunderbird pilot visits CAFB in prep of April show


Sgt. Joe Khoda, advance crew chief of the USAF Thunderbirds, closes the canopy to an F-16 jet at Columbus Air Force Base Thursday. The Thunderbirds will perform at CAFB in April.

Sgt. Joe Khoda, advance crew chief of the USAF Thunderbirds, closes the canopy to an F-16 jet at Columbus Air Force Base Thursday. The Thunderbirds will perform at CAFB in April. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff  Buy this photo.


Sarah Fowler



On Thursday, Maj. Mike Fisher, also known as Thunderbird #8, landed a F-16 performance jet at Columbus Air Force Base. 


The Air Force Thunderbirds will perform at the base in April.  


"We're here getting ready to do a sight survey for the show this summer," Fisher said. "We are very excited to come back to the Golden Triangle area." 


Fisher's plane is one of six that will perform. Typically, pilots are in the Thunderbird seat for two years. However, due to recent federal budget concerns, Fisher is in his third year as a Thunderbird. 


CAFB is one of 29 locations the Thunderbirds will perform at this season. They will perform approximately 63 shows. Fisher said he and his fellow pilots are excited to get back to doing the job they love. 


"We're ready to go for a full season this year," Fisher said. "We're super excited to get back on the road after staying at home in 2013. Unfortunately, the entire season was canceled due to sequestration but we're super excited to come back, reengage with the public and instill that trust that the public has with the United States military." 


Fisher, who joined the Air Force in 2002, said being a Thunderbird pilot is a lifelong dream come true. 


"I always wanted to learn how to fly and I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time," he said. "I went through ROTC at Washington State University when I was in college and was fortunate enough to get picked up and go to pilot training. Luckily, I got selected to fly the F-16 and I've been doing it ever since. It's been a great ride for me. Very fulfilling. Very rewarding." 


When it comes to the rush of performing the daring, tactical maneuvers at a high rate of speed, Fisher said the sensation of nine G's pushing against your body can be an adjustment, to say the least. 


"When you're flying in a high speed aircraft like this, when you're up high in the air you really don't have that sensation of speed because you're a long ways away from the ground but when you get down low, 500 feet or lower, you really get that sensation of speed as all of the buildings, trees, telephone poles and anything else down there attached to the ground is flying past the canopy at a very high rate of speed," he said. "As far as other feelings you'll feel, as the seat of the pants feeling or those G forces, when we turn the aircraft, this aircraft is capable of up to nine G's so take your body weight and multiply it by nine and that's the force that you can feel pushing you down in the seat." 


Fisher encouraged people to come see the air show and experience the pride of the Air Force first hand. The Thunderbirds will perform at CAFB on April 3 and 4. 


"When they come out to the show what they're going to see is the United States Thunderbirds representing the pride, precision and professionalism of up to 700,000 total force men and women," he said. "That's active duty, civil service, reserve and guard component of the Air Force. That's a lot of folks and they bring a lot of pride to the job every day when they put on the uniform so that's what we do when we travel on the road." 


In addition to the Thunderbirds, civilian and military aircraft will be on display during the April show. The base gates will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the Saturday and Sunday event, which is free and open to the public.


Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.



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