Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Thunderbirds Zoom into Town! (May 5th and 6th)

From WLTX (from May 2): The Thunderbirds Zoom into Town!
Sumter, SC (WLTX) -- There was rumbling over the skies of Sumter on Wednesday as Shaw Air Force Base prepares for the Shaw Air Expo this weekend.

You could hear the jets before you could see them as the Thunderbirds zoomed into town.

Since 1967 the Thunderbirds have been the official US Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron. Major Caroline Jensen is among the team.

"Every time I fly I still feel like I'm extremely lucky to do this," said Jensen.

The Thunderbirds travel all over the world representing the US Air Force.

"The flight panel has a flag of every country that the Thunderbirds have visited," explained Jensen as she pointed to a multitude of flags painted on the side of her jet. "Last year we had the honor of adding the flag of Finland to our flight panel."

"I remember the first time I got in an F-16," Jensen remembers, "it felt very small. It felt a little bit, like, claustrophobic and cramped in there. But once you start up the engine and start flying it, the airplane almost just disappears."

As a 1998 Air Force Academy graduate, Jensen has plenty of experience as a pilot. She has flown in Korea and has hundreds of combat hours over Iraq; however, many are still impressed to see a woman in her position.

"I am the 4th female pilot to fly for the team. The first female pilot came to the team in 2006. The squadron had their first woman Thunderbird though back in 1974. I'm still surprised when people are surprised to see me because obviously I've been doing it my whole career."

Although she understands that being a female pilot is inspiring to others.

"When I meet little girls I think it's great to see that spark in their eye! But it's just as important for me to see the little boys too so that the younger generation is aware that anyone is capable of doing anything."

Flying never gets old to her and neither does the reason why she loves her job.

"There's nearly 700,000 men and women who serve in the Air Force and it's really a great experience to get to represent them. We live in a great country and we have a great air force and I love to help put that on display."

The Shaw Air Expo will be open to the public May 5 - 6, 2012.

During the Shaw Air Expo one of the Thunderbirds jets will have the name of Army Spc. Abraham Wheeler painted on the side as part of their Fallen Heroes program. He's was a Columbia soldier who died from an IED attack in Afghanistan in 2009

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