Tyndall Pilot Selected as Lead Pilot for Air Force Thunderbirds - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Tyndall Pilot Selected as Lead Commander for Air Force Thunderbirds

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"Everybody thinks of the Thunderbirds and they think of the air show," said F-15 pilot Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Bradley being a part of the Thunderbirds is much more than just another two years of flying.

"I'd say flying is about 20 percent of what they do," said Colonel Bradley. "There is so much more the thunderbirds do than fly and that's what excites me is the interaction with the public."

Colonel Bradley submitted his application for the lead pilot position in January following a visit to an air show.

"Two years ago, I took my sons to an air show and all they could talk about was the thunderbirds," said Colonel Bradley. "They've been around fighters and they've seen me fly."

As his family's interest in the jets grew, Colonel Bradley began to ask questions. The more answers he received, the more he wanted to become part of the team.

"The guys on the team told me about the visits to hospitals and the visits to schools and all the stuff that they do," said Colonel Bradley. "I thought that was a pretty neat mission."

After never having interviewed for a job in his life, Colonel Bradley pitched his ideas to a One Star General at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

"My youngest son got a flight suit for Christmas," said Colonel Bradley. "So, he would sit on the couch and do Thunderbird moves as if he was flying an airplane.

"They were trying to say I was a Thunderbird, and I was like 'not yet,'"

Eventually he would get the job. A reward in his mind... And the minds of his sons.

"I called my wife and she was in shock as well," said Colonel Bradley. "I told her not to tell the kids until I got home.

"My youngest son went straight in the house and put on his flight suit and came back out, I mean they were really excited."

In January, Colonel Bradley will join the team in Las Vegas for training.

"All in all we are all excited," said Colonel Bradley. "They don't want to leave their friends in Panama City, but their excited about moving to Vegas and doing the Thunderbird thing."

Before joining the team Colonel Bradley will spend two months learning to fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon.