Thunderbirds put on spectacular show
ROCKFORD – Last week, Dawn and Rick Bright contacted the newspaper to let us know their son, Brandon, would be participating as a Thunderbird at the Rockford Airfest show.
The show was at Chicago Rockford International Airport on Saturday and Sunday.
We thought it would be great to do a story on Brandon, but time ran out before I could reach him in advance of the show.
Rick called late Friday afternoon to ask me if I would be interested in attending Airfest to see Brandon and the famous Thunderbirds. I took advantage of the opportunity and went to see the show on Sunday.
Staff Sgt. Brandon Bright, a Rock Falls High School graduate, has been a crew chief with the Air Force for 10 years.
Brandon joined the Thunderbirds a few months ago. He performs tactical aircraft maintenance and is based at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.
During Sunday's air show, Brandon was signing autographs and meeting with the crowd before the performance.
The weather was great. A huge crowd gathered at the airport to see the last day of the show. The countdown for the Thunderbirds began hours before the show started.
The Thunderbirds began right at 3 p.m. Well before the planes took to the sky, there was a rigorous, detailed process to prepare the birds and the pilots for take-off.
With the Air Force Thunderbirds, nothing is left unchecked, no detail unaccounted for. The process from beginning to take-off took almost 30 minutes to complete.
Once the birds took to the sky, they put on an incredible show. Four of the F-16 jet pilots performed the Diamond formation. The other two performed "Mirror" formations in which one plane is directly above the other, but upside down.
An announcer described every formation for the audience. Music perfectly accompanied each one. The effect was great.
The Thunderbirds were what the crowd had been waiting for all day. The incredible performance was well worth the wait.
Master Sgt. Kimberely Harrison, public affairs officer for the Thunderbirds, said the process of joining the team is selective. There are between 125 and 130 members of the team. It's an all-volunteer group. Applicants are tested and must complete a 21- to 30-day process after arriving at Nellis before they are finally selected.
It can be exhausting, Harrison said, to complete the process.
The Brights are proud of their son and his accomplishments, as they should be. The Air Force Thunderbirds are an elite squad to be a part of.
Sauk Valley Media reporter Kiran Sood covers government and happenings in Sterling and Rock Falls. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 800-798-4085, ext. 529.