Thunderbird Down!

While I was in the Air Forces at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., I was an aircraft mechanic. Different types of aircraft and squadrons were situated in rows on the flight line. The red, white and blue thunderbird squadron was on the line next to the row of aircraft in which I was a crew chief. I envied the mechanics in the thunderbird squadron. When those beautiful planes went out on a mission, both the mechanics and pilots moved like clockwork. The air shows were so perfect. They were awesome and breathtaking. There were times when they were gone on trips for performances.

Then on the fateful day, January 18,1982, while practicing for air show, four aircraft were performing a diamond shape pattern. They climbed several thousand feet and then after a backward loop, headed down at more than 400, and leveled off at about 100 feet for a line abreast-loop. There was a malfunction in the lead plane. Each plane fallowed the lead plane, one after the other plowing into the ground, killing all fours pilots in instantly.

After this accident, there was a lot of talk about the price of the planes that were lots – that was what people focused on , about how much it would cost to replace the planes. There was also a lot of talk about how much time it would take to reorganize this unit and retrain pilots to fly different planes.

Not very many people spoke of these three captains and the major who died in the tragedy. How would you put a price on a person’s life? How do you put a price on a family’s loss? There isn’t a time limit that one can put on someone’s life. Only God has the right to do that. Sometimes we fail to see the big picture in a tragedy like this.