Published Jan. 12, 2022 By Staff Sgt. Laurel Richards, Air Force Thunderbirds

The United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” kicked off their first ever winter training trip at Spaceport America on January 10, 2022.

“We are honored to be hosting the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds” said New Mexico Spaceport Authority Executive Director Scott McLaughlin. “Spaceport America is a unique multipurpose facility for commercial and federal aerospace customers. Our partnership with U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range allows us to attract a wide range of users for training, test and development, and the great weather in Southern New Mexico is perfect for year-round missions.”

The Thunderbirds’ training season, ranging from November through March, is a time to integrate and synchronize as a team and practice the demonstration. This year, the month-long winter training trip will take place in two locations: Spaceport America, New Mexico, and Ft. Huachuca, Arizona. 

Leadership from the Thunderbirds and the 57th Fighter Wing made the landmark decision to have an off-station winter training trip after assessing multiple locations based on aerospace availability, geographical location, and site surveys. In previous years, the Thunderbirds hosted training at their home base, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. 

“This is our top priority for the 2022 training season. It’s crucial that we take advantage of this unique opportunity to set the tone for our 2022 show season and future training seasons,” said Lt. Col. Justin Elliott, Thunderbirds commander and leader.

The move was made to increase aerospace opportunity and flexibility for the team’s training needs, while also allowing them to practice in conditions of increasing difficulty.

“These two locations are excellent training environments, each serving different purposes,” said Lt. Col. Elliott. “The show season subjects the team to difficult and ever-changing environments both in the air and on the ground. Training in new and different environments will allow the team to exercise the necessary muscles to ensure our demonstration is precise despite changing conditions.”

The team’s first training site is Spaceport America, located just outside of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The location boasts 6,000 square miles of restricted airspace, low population density, a 12,000-foot runway, and 340 days of sunshine and low humidity. These favorable conditions, along with entirely dedicated airspace, allow the team to hone the demonstration before moving on to more challenging flying conditions and time constraints like they might see during the show season. 

Note that the event is not open to the public. The exercise is for training purposes, and while Spaceport America will have some capacity for public viewing in the future, there are few places to park outside of the secure and closed campus.

After two weeks the team will move on to Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, home to the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM)/9th Army Signal Command and more than 48 supported tenants. Ft. Huachuca is comprised of 946 square miles of restricted airspace and three runways, as well as a mild winter and low humidity. This location, with many mountains close by, will challenge the demonstration team in flight with different conditions, visuals, and a more rigid flying schedule like those they’ll see during the show season. 

“We are extremely thankful for our hosts and counterparts at Spaceport America and Ft. Huachuca. This is a first for the Thunderbirds and it wouldn’t be possible without their partnership and support.”

After the inaugural training trip the team will continue on to train with the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, at Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro, California, to exchange best practices and lessons learned in preparation for the 2022 show season.

For more information on the Thunderbirds, visit air force.com/thunderbirds or follow us on social media @afthunderbirds.

Content on the Beat

WARNING: All articles and photos with a byline or photo credit are copyrighted to the author or photographer. You may not use any information found within the articles without asking permission AND giving attribution to the source. Photos can be requested and may incur a nominal fee for use personally or commercially.

Disclaimer: If you find errors in articles not written by the Beat team but sent to us from other content providers, please contact the writer, not the Beat. For example, obituaries are always provided by the funeral home or a family member. We can fix errors, but please give details on where the error is so we can find it. News releases from government and non-profit entities are posted generally without change, except for legal notices, which incur a small charge.

NOTE: If an article does not have a byline, it was written by someone not affiliated with the Beat and then sent to the Beat for posting.

Images: We have received complaints about large images blocking parts of other articles. If you encounter this problem, click on the title of the article you want to read and it will take you to that article's page, which shows only that article without any intruders. 

New Columnists: The Beat continues to bring you new columnists. And check out the old faithfuls who continue to provide content.

Newsletter: If you opt in to the Join GCB Three Times Weekly Updates option above this to the right, you will be subscribed to email notifications with links to recently posted articles.

Submitting to the Beat

Those new to providing news releases to the Beat are asked to please check out submission guidelines at https://www.grantcountybeat.com/about/submissions. They are for your information to make life easier on the readers, as well as for the editor.

Advertising: Don't forget to tell advertisers that you saw their ads on the Beat.

Classifieds: We have changed Classifieds to a cheaper and shorter option. Check periodically to see if any new ones have popped up. The former software failed us, so it's just a category now, with prices posted. Send your information to editor@grantcountybeat.com and we will post it as soon as we can. Instructions and prices are on the page.

Editor's Notes

It has come to this editor's attention that people are sending information to the Grant County Beat Facebook page. Please be aware that the editor does not regularly monitor the page. If you have items you want to send to the editor, please send them to editor@grantcountybeat.com. Thanks!

Here for YOU: Consider the Beat your DAILY newspaper for up-to-date information about Grant County. It's at your fingertips! One Click to Local News. Thanks for your support for and your readership of Grant County's online news source—www.grantcountybeat.com

Feel free to notify editor@grantcountybeat.com if you notice any technical problems on the site. Your convenience is my desire for the Beat.  The Beat totally appreciates its readers and subscribers!  

Compliance: Because you are an esteemed member of The Grant County Beat readership, be assured that we at the Beat continue to do everything we can to be in full compliance with GDPR and pertinent US law, so that the information you have chosen to give to us cannot be compromised.