Alyssa Miller

What would you do for a Thunderbird flight?

February 16, 2012 by Alyssa Miller, AOPA Online Managing Editor

They’re sleek. They’re fast. They’re precise. Their airshow performances put pilots in awe. They’re the Air Force Thunderbirds. After watching a show, who hasn’t thought of what it would be like to be in the cockpit during one of those routines?

I’m hoping to find out what it’s really like. I’ve been fortunate enough to be given an opportunity to apply for a media flight in the Thunderbird No. 8 fighter during Sun ‘n Fun. My chances aren’t bad either. The Air Force accepted five applications for two media flights.USAF Thunderbirds Media Ride Forms

The application process wasn’t difficult, but it was a little, well, revealing. The Air Force now knows more about my physical dimensions than my friends and family. Age, height, and weight weren’t enough. I also had to provide my waist and thigh sizes, measured from the largest point, and my butt-to-knee and butt-to-head measurements. The measurements had to be precise because, if I am lucky enough to be selected for the ride, the aircrew flight equipment must fit properly or my chance is gone. The Air Force was so exact that they provided a diagram about how to take the measurements. Needless to say, getting my butt-to-knee and butt-to-head measurements with the help of a coworker one morning in my cubicle made for some interesting conversation with the rest of my group!

The requirements didn’t stop there. I also had to provide my jacket, pant, and shoe size … in men’s sizes. So, I made a quick trip to Walmart one evening to try on clothes. I must admit, I felt rather odd shopping in the men’s section and then going to the women’s fitting room to ask to try on the clothes.

Even though the application was rather detailed on my measurements and medical history (certifying that I have no heart or back problems), it’s actually you, our members, who were most important. Part of the purpose of the media flight is to increase the Air Force’s exposure. AOPA’s 400,000 members pack power on Capitol Hill, and I’m hoping that strength in numbers will also help me get in the cockpit of the Thunderbird No. 8 jet.

Still, I wanted to add a note that if I didn’t meet their specifications, I would do anything in my power to meet their requirements by the March 30 flight. Lose weight, gain weight, add muscle—anything that I could control. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a spot for begging on the application.

If you had the chance to fly with the Thunderbirds, what would you be willing to do to make it happen?

7 Responses to “What would you do for a Thunderbird flight?”

  1. Doug Says:

    I’d do just about anything to get a ride in a fighter. It was all I planned on doing before I was disqualified after an accident.

  2. Todd Says:

    Anything at all! I know they give the rides to increase exposure, so I promise I will tell everyone I know. Let me know if you need an alternate! I’ll squeeze into whatever size is necessary!

  3. Hank Says:


    What would I NOT do for a Thunderbird ride??? Sign me up!

  4. Brian Knoblauch Says:

    I don’t know if I’d do it even if they begged me. :-) I get motion sickness if I’m not in control… Maybe if I could convince them to only to shallow turns, no aerobatics… Would be cool to be in an F-16, but I don’t think it’d be any fun if I got sick (and I’m sure I would).

  5. Ray Winslow Says:

    Now if you have a “Blue Angle” flight, I’m all in !

  6. Steve Says:

    Good luck! If you make it, all of us AOPA folks will be cheering for you.

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