Museum of Aviation to open Thunderbirds exhibit

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will headline this weekend’s two-day open house and air show at Robins Air Force Base.

The world famous precision aerobatic team will also be the subject of a new, permanent display at the Museum of Aviation.

The multifaceted exhibit, featuring an F-16 once flown by the demonstration team, will open to the public Sunday in the Century of Flight Hangar. The single-engine, multirole fighter flew in the No. 2 or No. 3 position with the Thunderbirds from 1983 to 1991, said Bob Dubiel, marketing director for the museum.

“When they converted to the new F-16C model, they took it off the team,” Dubiel said. “We got it from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, where it was a maintenance trainer.”

The local museum is one of two in the country to have a former Thunderbirds aircraft on display. The other is the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

“We are proud to be one of only two museums in the country to have such a display,” museum Director Ken Emory is quoted in a news release. “Beside the aircraft, we will display some of the uniforms and equipment used by the Thunderbirds team.”

The Carl Vinson Chapter 296 of the Air Force Association donated $17,700 to repaint the aircraft in the traditional red, white and blue color scheme used by the demonstration team. Members of the team will cut the ribbon on the new exhibit during an air show reception at the museum Saturday night.

More than 4,400 F-16s have been built since 1976, according to the museum, It features a frameless, bubble canopy for optimum visibility, a side-mounted stick for better control and a reclined seat to reduce the effects of G-forces. It comes with a Vulcan cannon and 11 hard points for mounting an assortment of weapons.

It has a thrust-to-weight ratio greater than one enabling it to accelerate vertically. It is flown by 25 air forces around the world.

To contact Gene Rector, call 923-3109, extension 239.

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