Raptor Pilot to Lead Thunderbirds

The Thunderbirds air demonstration squadron’s list of officer selections for the 2010 demonstration season includes, for the first time, an F-22 pilot. In fact, Lt. Col. Case Cunningham, currently director of operations for the 43rd Fighter Squadron, a Raptor training unit at Tyndall AFB, Fla., has been chosen to lead the elite team next year, the Thunderbirds stated in a release yesterday. The squadron, based in Nellis AFB, Nev., is currently in the midst of its 2009 flying season, its 56th year of performing synchronized aerobatic routines at air shows around the globe. Those pilots like Cunningham who currently fly different airframes than the Thunderbirds’ F-16s will undergo several months of F-16 familiarization training before they begin practicing aerial demonstrations with the other Thunderbird pilots, according to the release.