UCCS Grad in the Thunderbirds

krdo newschannel 13’s colleen sikora went to nellis air force base in nevada for this rare access. she joins us in studio now for the story you’ll only see on krdo… with hundreds of hours in training and combat in a jet fighter– these men are more than well prepared to fly these precise maneuvers in their f-16’s. but what struck me about each one i had the chance to speak with– how humble they are… and how honored each one is to wear the thunderbird’s patch. nats–tbirds in air flying high in their f-16’s nats-tbirds in air these pilots… are well trained. with a minimum requirement of 750 flight hours… in a jet fighter the six demonstration pilots make these diamonds… rolls… and loops look graceful. but what’s behind the mask? a man. devoted to serve. and honored to be wearing the thunderbirds patch. nats–0950782 jets pulling in. behind the no.2 jet– left wing… major ryan bodenheimer. he’s from colorado springs and went to pine creek high school. he’s also a u-c-c-s grad. maj. ryan bodenheimer, 095077202 2:51 there’s videos of me as a young boy, probably 3-4 flying a little thunderbird around. bodenheimer joined the air force 10 years ago.. flew combat in afghanistan for seven months in the f-15 e. and is now in his second year with the thunderbirds squadron. maj. ryan bodenheimer,095 077202 3:43 the thunderbirds sparked something in me at a very young age, and it wasn’t necessarily to join the air force it was more ask better questions and learn how people do amazing things. nats- no.4 jet/no.4/tbirds show in the slot… you’ll find major nick krajicek cry- check flying the no. 4 jet. maj. nick krajicek, 095086901 27:01 i can see everybody, so i’ve got the best seat in the house. cry-check– started his military career in the army and flew blackhawk helicopters as a medevac pilot. then joined the airforce in 2004.. maj. nick krajicek, 095086901 18:43 i joined the air force because i wanted to be apart of this amazing team that gets to help defend our way of life, defend our freedoms everyday. nats- solo maneuvers flying the most upside down maneuvers in the thunderbirds hour long show– and carrying the upside down no. 5 on his uniform and his jet. maj. alex turner,095087201- 06at nellis 32:01 i usually look down and tell them it looks right to me, until that joke runs out no.5- lead solo- major alex turner. maj. alex turner,095087201- 06 40:24 there’s a picture of me, five or six years old up against the snow fence with the thunderbirds up against my shoulder the upside down 5– a 30 year old tradition. maj. alex turner,095087201- 06 33:43 as just a joke, the crew chiefs flipped the five over and put the sticker on there and the pilot came out and laughed and kind of chuckled and said ‘we’re leaving it’ and forever more this is how we’re rollin’. nats- team interacting after jets land. the jokes don’t stop on this team. and the demands… keep them working hard. maj. nick krajicek, 095086901 19:36 it is very physically demanding to fly these f-16s. nats- tbirds in the air- boss’s perspective flight. as the hour long shows at high speeds… aren’t easy on the body…. and require total concentration. maj. ryan bodenheimer,095 077202 19:50 we’re human, and there’s times when our focus starts to slip, and what we do at that point is we try to regain it. for bodenheimer… concentration comes from training and the pressure from the crowd. maj. ryan bodenheimer,095 077202 19:39 it’s definitely training i think it’s having the ability to want to present the crowd with the absolute best experience possible for cry-check flying three feet away from three other f-16’s helps him focus. maj. nick krajicek, 095086901 26:53 that position in and of itself lends me to have to keep my concentration and keep me on my toes colleen sikora, 095098301 these pilots endure all of that, in order to fly these f-16’s. the thunderbirds have flown this particular aircraft since 1982, which is the longest duration the thunderbirds have flown a single aircraft. maj. alex turner,095087201- 06 43:16 there’s nothing that compares to the freedom of flying the aircraft, how maneuverable it is, the view the unobstructed view that the cockpit and the canopy the way it was designed, the view it provides the f-16 isn’t a young jet. in fact… it’s nearly four decades old. while the jets don’tar missiles– they’ve added a device to make the smoke you see in the shows. what really separates the thunderbirds f-16s from others– their iconic paint job. maj. ryan bodenheimer,095 077202 7:59 when you look outside and you’re flying over the grand canyon and you see the red, white and blue on your wings you just know what you represent. spending more than half the year on the road… and away from their families… these pilots– know the true meaning of dedication. maj. ryan bodenheimer,095 077202 13:09 i hope what they remember is what the jets represent is that we should all try to become the best versions of ourselves. maj. nick krajicek, 095086901 23:21 it’s an absolute honor, to get to represent nearly 66 hundred thousand airmen across the total force, so to be the air force’s premiere flying demonstration is just an absolute dream come true for me. taking the honor. the weight of the patch. and the precision of the air force… into the skies… and to the next level. what was it like to meet these pilots? i was personally intrigued by how real these men were. especially like major ryan bodenheimer said– that they are real people and sometimes they lose concentration. but each pilot has a way they get their head back in the game so to speak. which is crucial when they are flying as close as they are. and practice definitely helps– take a look at what we’re bringing you tomorrow. nats- jets flying it’s dozens of training flights– plus constant practice to make the thunderbirds shows perfect. 18:07 we typically fly 5-6 flights a week tuesday we’re taking you behind the scenes… and showing you how their jaw dropping shows become reality nats 911 call- my daughter just watched the thunderbird crash. and on wednesday— we talk for the first time with the pilot that crashed following the flyover at the air force academy graduation last year. “there’s just a couple seconds there of just of disbelief you know? of, this is happening right now?” he’ll tell us how he ejected and crash landed his f-16 on june 2nd 2017. we continue the series tuesday night at 10. colleen sikora krdo nc 13. if you want to see the thunderbirds before their performance at the air force academy graduation, you’ll have one more chance. the team will practice its full routine tomorrow. you’ll see the team right over falcon stadium from 11 a-m until noon… but you are reminded not to stop along i-25 to watch or take video either …