Thunderbirds excited to fly over Fraser Valley at Abbotsford airshow

Members of U.S. Air Force aerial performance troupe visited town to scope out the airfield

Two members of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds say they’re excited to be flying in the Abbotsford International Airshow in August, with plenty to see from the Fraser Valley skies.

Thunderbird 8 pilot Maj. Jason Markzon and crew chief TSgt. Zachary Jones were in Abbotsford Tuesday to scope out the airfield, something the Thunderbirds do every five years or if there are significant changes at show sites.

Markzon said the pair were going to be getting a tour of the city from airshow officials.

Neither of the two men were part of the Thunderbirds, which involves two- to three-year terms, when the crew was last here in 2012, and Markzon said he’s looking forward to flying around the area.

“That team is long gone by this point,” Markzon said.

The pair arrived to sunnier weather on Monday, but got to experience the rain coast in full Tuesday as they prepared to tour the city.

“I’m really excited to fly around here because there’s some good terrain to look at and it’s very green and there’s a beautiful lake. So it’s pretty awesome,” Markzon said.

“We’re going to be bringing about 70 personnel down here. Most of that’s going to be on our maintenance side. So you’ll see some of the pride and professionalism that goes into maintaining our jets and making sure everything looks good. We’ll have our [Thunderbirds] one through six, which are our demo pilots, who will be executing our demonstrations.”

That includes Thunderbirds 1-4, the team’s “diamond pilots,” who will be showing off “a little bit more of the gracefulness of the F-16 and show you what it takes to have the precision of flying in that close of formation,” Markzon said.

Thunderbirds 5 and 6 will be showing off more of the “maximum performance capabilities” of the jet, which is still in use by the U.S. Air Force for combat missions.

“On top of that, we’ll hopefully get out to the community and do some community outreach, and show Abbotsford what the Thunderbirds bring to the partnership that the U.S. and Canada have,” Markzon said.

The Thunderbirds’ show follows last year’s show by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, who fly F-18s.

“The F-18, performance-wise, can fly a little bit slower with their flight-control surfaces. For the F-16, we typically fly a bit faster, typically end up pulling a little bit more [G-force],” Markzon said.

“As far as the show goes, we both display some of the similar qualities and capabilities of precision and maximum performance capabilities.”

The Thunderbirds will be performing at the airshow on Aug. 10 and 11.

For photos of the Thunderbirds, follow @thunderbird.8 on Instagram.

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

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