Because my father was a career officer in the Air Force, I was exposed to air shows (the US Air Force Thunderbirds, US Navy Blue Angels and other performing aircraft) at a very young age. I have seen (and photographed) the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels countless times all over the United States. Every time, they give me an adrenaline rush. I live within a few minutes of an Air Force Base with an F-16 Fighter Wing. I LOVE (and often rush outside) at the roar of the engine as the take off. To me, it’s a comfortable sound, and the sound of freedom, not to mention, it reminds me of my father.
Today, as they have for many years, the Thunderbirds were scheduled to perform for the graduating class at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. I often drive down and photograph the shows because of my love for aviation and my love for photography.
Today, we had clear blue skies and bright sunshine. The perfect day for an air show and the graduation ceremony. The Graduation ran a bit longer than scheduled, but as soon as the graduating class was announced, the Thunderbirds did a 6 ship flyover as newly commissioned officers tossed their hats high in the air inside the USAFA Stadium. For the next 30 minutes 6 shiny White, with red and blue trim F-16s performed a flawless show over in the skies in front of Pikes Peak with me with my finger on the camera shutter the entire time.
I knew traffic leaving the makeshift parking lot we were in would be heavy so I took the time to post one image to Facebook to share just how great the show was. As I was driving back to Denver, I was contacted by a friend and was told that one of the Thunderbirds had crashed. I was stunned, to say the least, since I JUST had my eyes on them a few minutes before.
As it turns out, apparent engine trouble brought Thunderbird #6, the opposing solo down. Fortunately, the pilot was able to make sure the plane was headed for uninhabited territory before successfully ejecting from the aircraft without injury. It is also fortunate that no one on the ground was injured, nor was there any damage to property, other than the aircraft. Shortly after learning this news, I found out that a US Navy Blue Angel (Also #6) crashed during a practice show in Tennessee. Sadly, the pilot was unable to eject and died in the crash. Reports also said the pilot made every attempt to put the plane down in an uninhabited area.
It is a sad day for the aviation community and people who follow it. It is an especially sad day for the Navy Pilot’s family and fellow service members. We must also commend the pilots for their efforts to avoid injuring anyone else as their planes went down.
Say a prayer for those affected.
Additional photos of the air show may be seen here.
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