11 high-flying Thunderbirds tricks you could see at the Wings Over Houston show at Ellington Airport

HOUSTON - Wings Over Houston takes to the sky this weekend at Ellington Airport.  

As a part of the festivities the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will perform.  Audiences will be able to witness a number of maneuvers executed by some of the best pilots in the world.  

Prior to the show, KPRC’s Chip Brewster was taken along for a ride with the Thunderbirds, specifically Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, to see the moves from inside the cockpit.  

Here are a few of the movements the team will perform this weekend and that Brewster was able to experience.

Diamond Formation Maneuvers – these maneuvers are done simultaneously by four Thunderbird pilots with roughly three feet of distance maintained between them.

1: Clover Loop:  The formation flies in a loop but then at about the halfway point, when we’re pointed directly at the ground, they rotate 90 degrees to the left and come out the side.

VIEW THE CLOVER LOOP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2: Loop: a full loop.  The formation tries to make a perfect circle in the sky and actually fly through the smoke left behind.

VIEW THE LOOP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3: Barrel Roll: The formation rotates a full 360 degrees by rolling left or right.  Looks more like a corkscrew as it is a slow and steady roll.

VIEW THE BARREL ROLL.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Solo Maneuvers – these maneuvers are performed to show off the capabilities of the F-16 and the USAF’s pilots

1: Knife Edge: The plane turns sideways and flies with its wings in a vertical position.

VIEW THE KNIFE EDGE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2: Aileron Roll: This is another full 360 degree rotation by rolling left or right only this one is done quickly.

VIEW THE AILERON ROLL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3: Eight-Point Roll: A single Aileron Roll which is divided into eight quick movements.  The plane is rotated 45 degrees at a time as it rolls left or right.  The end result is a full 360-degree rotation.

VIEW THE EIGHT-POINT ROLL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4: Slow Roll: A non-ballistic roll meaning the pilot keeps the tip of the plane perfectly level.  This maneuver includes negative Gs, aka the pilot / passenger are forced up out of their seats.

VIEW THE SLOW ROLL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5: Vertical Rolls: The plane is pulled straight up causing about 6 Gs in the process.  Then while heading straight into the sky the pilot rolls the plane left or right performing about five full rotations.

VIEW THE VERTICAL ROLLS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

6: High Alpha: The pilot slows the plane down to about 138 knots (about 160 miles per hour) which is super slow for a jet.  This requires the nose to be up quite a bit so physics keeps the plane in the sky.  It is described by the pilot as feeling like “a boat coming off-plane.”

VIEW THE HIGH ALPHA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

7: Inverted to Inverted Pass: This is when the plane passes by a specific area, such as an airshow crowd, completely inverted (upside down), twice.

VIEW THE INVERTED TO INVERTED PASS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8: 9G Maneuver: The pilot turns the plane in an incredibly tight circle causing the force of gravity to multiple nine times or more.  In this video, Brewster and his pilot reach 9.26 Gs.

VIEW THE 9G MANEUVER.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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