Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thunderbirds

On Wednesday, March 19, we finally felt rested enough to attempt a day trip away from the camper, but we didn't want to venture too far away yet.  Fortunately for us, the United States Thunderbirds Museum is just a few minutes down the street from us here on Nellis AFB.

But can you believe that we got lost on the way to the museum?  I've learned that GPS systems don't work very well on military installations, so when it said to turn right we really should have turned left.  After getting directions from a confused gate guard who thought I must have meant Blue Angels (he was wrong; I was right; end of story), we finally found the Thunderbirds hangar and walked inside.

This was a very pleasant little outing for us.  We took about ten or fifteen minutes to walk through the gallery of memorabilia and crew photos from 1953 to present.  The memorabilia included gifts from foreign governments, letters from former presidents, autographed pictures from music and movie stars, etc.  It was quite interesting.

Next, we were offered a tour of the hangar by one of the crew members.  Inside the hangar were two jets being maintained, a simulator that allowed the boys to play with all the buttons, and an impressive floor decoration with a giant American flag hanging in the background.  The crew member was very informative and knew his stuff!  We learned that the jets aren't very big.  The wingspan is only 31 feet, and the entire length of the plane from nose to tail is only 49.3 feet.  Some other interesting facts are that the plane can climb at a rate of 30,000 feet per minute with a thrust of 29,100 pounds, and it can withstand G limitations of negative 3 to positive 9.

After touring the hangar, we were escorted to a room to view a fifteen minute movie about the Thunderbirds.  The movie explained some of the history and mission of the flight team, and it showcased some of the aerial demonstrations for which they are so famous.  We learned that the Thunderbirds fly as close as four feet apart from each other at a speed of up to 1500 miles per hour!

Overall, our outing took only slightly more than an hour, but it was a great way to break up an otherwise mundane day by learning about the world-famous United States Air Force Thunderbirds.