Air Force

June 7, 2013

Thunderbirds birthed at Luke

April 1953. Capts. Robert Kanaga and Charles Pattillo; Maj. Richard Catledge; Capts. Robert McCormick and Cuthbert Pattillo, the original Thunderbirds pilots.

Sixty years ago on May 25, 1953, the 3600th U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Flight activated.

The history of the now famous Thunderbirds began at the end of World War II.

The U.S. Army Air Forces’ fighter arm only had piston engine aircraft. The first jet fighter was just coming into the inventory. After the war, a number of commands decided to develop teams to demonstrate the capabilities and flying precision of their pilots and new jet aircraft.

In 1948 in Europe, Capt. Charles Pattillo, a WWII 352nd Fighter Group fighter pilot, helped organize the U.S. Air Force aerial demonstration team, the Skyblazers, where he flew left wing. His twin brother, Capt. Cuthbert Pattillo, flew in the same WWII group until he was shot down and became a prisoner of war. Starting in 1948, he was assigned to the same fighter wing as his brother and also helped organize and fly in the Skyblazers.

In August 1952, Charles Pattillo was assigned to Air Training Command’s 3600th Combat Crew Training Wing at Luke Air Force Base. The following March, his brother arrived. Catledge, a WWII fighter pilot and POW, also arrived at Luke about the same time as Charles Pattillo to command one of the training squadrons. Capts. Robert Kanaga, William Brock and Robert McCormick were also on base. McCormick had been a member of Air Defense Command’s Sabre Dancers demonstration team.

First Lt. Aubry Brown arrived at Luke in March 1953 to be an instructor pilot. Both McCormick and Brown were Korean War fighter pilots. Given the large number of aircraft at Luke, flying more than 400 sorties per day, Air Training Command chose the base for its aerial demonstration team.

August 1953
Capt. Cuthbert Pattillo, left; 1st Lt. Aubry Brown, standing; Capt. Robert McCormick, middle, Maj. Richard Catledge, front middle; and Capt. Charles Pattillo

Flying the subsonic, straight-winged Republic F-84G Thunderjet, Maj. Richard Catledge flew lead. Charles Pattillo flew left wing, and his brother flew right wing. Kanaga flew the difficult slot position. The diamond shape was the team’s basic formation. McCormick was the spare pilot and could fly slot. Brown served as the maintenance officer, and Master Sgt. Earl Young handpicked the team’s 21 maintenance technicians. Brock served as the narrator and information officer.

Three weeks later, they gave their first performance to the chief of staff of the Air Force.

Prior to Kanaga’s reassignment in September, McCormick moved to slot and the team used the spare aircraft to conduct some solo maneuvers. Catledge selected Brown for that task.

The team stayed together until February 1954 when Charles Pattillo became a squadron director of operations and later squadron commander. In May 1954, Brown went back to being an instructor pilot. A month later, Cuthbert Pattillo became a squadron commander. All three stayed at Luke. In the fall, Catledge left for Randolph AFB, Texas. McCormick was the last of the original flyers to leave the team in November 1954.

In 1955, to show off the most advanced fighters, the team switched to the swept-wing Republic F-84F Thunderstreak. In 1956, the team switched aircraft again to the super-sonic North American F-100C Super Sabre. To simplify maintenance and logistics, the team moved to Nellis AFB, Nev., where it has remained.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Senior Airman Jenna Sarvinski

Life, Liberty, pursuit of happiness brings Kenyan student to America

Senior Airman Jenna Sarvinski Senior Airman Robert Cheruiyot, 56th Medical Operations Squadron medical technician, greets Gen. Julius Waweru Karangi, chief of the defense forces, Kenya. Karangi and Cheruiyot met in a chance enc...
 
 

Air Force News – August 1, 2014

Kendall: F-35 rollout marks U.S. – Australia partnership milestone The official rollout of the first two F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force is a milestone in the U.S.-Australia partnership, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics said July 24. Frank Kendall spoke during a ceremony held...
 
 

People First – August 1, 2014

Editor’s Note: The “People First” section is compiled from information from the Air Force Personnel Center, TRICARE, 56th Force Support Squadron, Airman and Family Readiness Flight, Veterans Affairs, the civilian personnel office and armed forces news services. For the complete story, go to the web address listed at the end of the story. Military mail...
 

 
Courtesy photo

EOD called out for expertise

Courtesy photo The 56th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal team recovers military ordnance July 4 from the rubble of a burnt down building at an auto repair facility in Phoenix. The Luke EOD team recovered nume...
 
 
Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann

Thunderbolt joins elite Thunderbirds

Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, took this photo March 15 during Luke Air Force Base’s Open House and Air Show. She had no idea at the time that just a few months later she would b...
 
 

Air Force News – July 25, 2014

Utah The combined efforts of Hill Air Force Base’s Ogden Air Logistics Complex and several Defense Department organizations culminated in the initial delivery of three of 24 F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft to the government of Indonesia. The Ogden ALC refurbished this initial batch of F-16s, and is scheduled to deliver 21 more F-16s to the...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin