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.


 
 

 
Courtesy Photo

Luke 1 holds first commander’s call

Courtesy Photo Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing commander, begins his first commander’s call at Luke Air Force Base Monday. Pleus took command of the fighter wing June 20. Brig. Gen Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing com...
 
 

Balance, key to successful AF life

I believe proper balance is the key to a successful life in the Air Force. Over the years I’ve come to realize that it takes a concentrated effort to maintain balance between a professional life as an Air Force member and personal or family life. Both require constant learning, adjustments, development and attention. It’s easy...
 
 

Avoid claustrophobic career

I have heard many times that education is the great equalizer. The Air Force takes in people of all races, cultures and backgrounds and unifies them under simple beliefs and values. The enlisted force structure serves as the common language for force development, and education plays a major role. We all know education creates opportunity,...
 

 
James Hensley

No one flies until flight med gives OK

James Hensley Airman 1st Class Shawn Martinez, 56th Aerospace Medicine Squadron flight medicine technician, checks over the ambulance Aug. 19 with Staff Sgt. Jovanny Reyes, 56th AMDS medical technician, at Luke Air Force Base. ...
 
 

News Briefs August 29, 2014

Gate hours change The South Gate Visitor Registration Center hours have changed. They are 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Effective Tuesday, the North Gate is open inbound and outbound 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Also on Tuesday, the Kachina Gate will open inbound and outbound 6 a.m. to 10...
 
 

THUNDERBOLT OF THE WEEK

Senior Airman Brian Comia 56th Force Support Squadron Services journeyman Hometown: San Lorenzo, California Years in service: Three Family: Wife, Phoebe; daughters, Sophia and Isabella Inspirations: My family Goals: My short-term goal is to make staff sergeant next year Greatest feat: Becoming a U.S. citizen and having the pleasure and honor of serving this country...
 




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