If you hear planes flying around in Chicopee, don’t be scared. The Air Force Thunderbirds are in town!
The Thunderbirds arrived in Chicopee Thursday afternoon for a meet and greet with local media organizations and of course, 22News was there.
This is the first time the Thunderbirds have been in Chicopee in a decade, and one team member, an Amherst native, trained in Western Massachusetts.
The F-16s of the Air Force Thunderbirds touched down at Westover Air Reserve Base Thursday afternoon. The demonstration jets are the same model flying missions overseas.
“What you see behind me is an F-16, it’s a block 52, which is the United States latest and greatest F-16,” said Major Nick Krajicek, a Thunderbirds pilot. “They are right now no kidding flying combat missions over in Afghanistan, over in Syria and Iraq.”
The jets performed several high-speed, low-altitude fly-bys over Westover Thursday, performing a sites survey, making notes of the layout and obstacles before their performances this weekend.
But the team is much more than just pilots, with more than 100 elite, enlisted personnel involved in everything from maintenance to public affairs.
“The journey actually kind of started with the Thunderbirds,” said Major Ray Geoffrey. “I saw them perform right here in western Mass. when I was a little bit younger, that kind of lit a spark for me.”
An Amherst native and an ROTC Alum of Umass Amherst, Maj. Geoffrey said it’s great to be back as part of the team.
“It’s amazing coming back here to Westover, I remember training just on that side of the airfield in ROTC,” Maj. Geoffrey told 22News. “To be back home is just really special to see my family again, just them a little bit about what I do in the Air Force, and find those next future airmen in the audience and hopefully inspire them to do something amazing.”
The Thunderbirds will practice Friday before their performances Saturday and Sunday. Admission and parking are free. Expect a lot of traffic.
Early arrival is advised.
The Thunderbirds are expected to be the main attraction at the 2018 Great New England Air and Space Show July 14 and 15.