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 Devante Williams

Luke 1 brings home flagship

Senior Airman Devante Williams Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing commander, speaks with the press after landing the flagship F-35 Lightning ll joint strike fighter Tuesday at Luke Air Force Base. The flagship’s arriva...
 
 

Every Airman has a voice

While Gen. Mark Welsh III was here at Luke Air Force Base, he discussed the importance of listening to your young Airmen, and making sure they feel empowered to have open dialogue and share ideas within their chain of command. As the NCO in charge of my section, I took General Welsh’s words to heart...
 
 

Off-base activities build your CAF

The Critical Days of Summer draw near. I know that in our shop this kicks off a slew of safety briefings about how to minimize the chance of injuries and stay out of danger. However, this shouldn’t discourage you from going out and exploring the Valley of the Sun. Luke is an amazing base because...
 

 
Senior Airman 
MARCY COPELAND

Love thy feet

Senior AirmanMARCY COPELAND Senior Airman Yadria Wood, 56th Medical Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician, wraps a toe after a wedge resection is performed April 16 on Luke Air Force Base. The human foot contains 26 ...
 
 

News Briefs May 1, 2015

BMGR IEC convenes The Intergovernmental Executive Committee for the Barry M. Goldwater Range will convene at 5:30 p.m. May 13 in Cabela’s Conference Room at 9380 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale. The IEC meets three times per year to facilitate the exchange of views, information and advice relating to the Air Force and Marine Corps’ management...
 
 

Trainee breaks 90 percent, never looks back

“Lee, get off my track!” the instructor yelled. The time clock showed that 21 minutes had passed. Everyone in my flight was finished with the mile-and-a-half run except me. I didn’t finish. Before that we had been mock tested on the sit-up and pushup portion of the test. I performed six sit-ups and zero pushups...
 




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