Friday, September 14, 2018




Thunderbirds soar into town for air show

STEWART AIRPORT – The US Air Force Thunderbirds are in Orange County this week to participate in the New York Air Show at New York Stewart International Airport this weekend. 

Thunderbirds on the flightline after arriving on Thursday

Based out of Las Vegas, Nevada, the demonstration squadron, comprised entirely of combat veterans, participates in air shows and demonstrations all across the U.S. to showcase the skill, pride and dedication of America’s airmen.

“It’s been a blast,” said Captain Will Graeff when describing his first year of service with the Thunderbirds.  “We really enjoy coming out to different communities across the country, whether it be talking to kids at a local high school or visiting a veterans hospital.”

Graeff, who has severed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, is one of the eight pilots “lucky enough to have been picked” to join the Thunderbirds after logging over 750 hours of flight time in a fighter-type aircraft. 

Graeff and his squad-mates pilot F16 duel roll aircraft, fighter planes designed to engage both air and ground targets. The jets can reach a speed of 1,500 mph or roughly twice the speed of sound, though the veteran pilot describes the process as “fairly uneventful.” 

Thunderbird pilots serve for two years with half of the demonstration team being swapped out annually.  “Show season” stretches from March to November during which the pilots will fly all over the country to participate in air demonstrations and flaunt their prodigious skills.  “Loops, rolls, head on passes, and combinations of such” are all part and parcel for these pilots who put on shows almost every weekend of the season.  “The thing that rejuvenates most of us is working with the kids and the local community, seeing their excitement keeps us going” explained Captain Graeff.

Stewart Manager Ed Harrison said an air show is the best way to promote an airport and region.

Tens of thousands of spectators are expected to converge on the airport and the Newburgh region to watch the show this Saturday and Sunday.


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