I am Thunderbird #5, the Lead Solo Pilot for the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. I am a dynamic figure, often seen flying upside down in front of thousands of people at 150 feet. I have ripped the wings off a fighter, only to land as softly as a butterfly. I am a three-time All American high jumper and have herded camels in the Middle East. As a boy, my carburetor rebuilding techniques were known throughout Kingman County. I have been called a renegade in certain grain science circles, a hero at elementary schools, and, according to my daughters, a champion in the game of hide-and-go-seek. On weekends, to blow off steam, I design state-of-the-art pedal airplanes. I have played Jimmy Stewart, stampeded cattle, and spoken with the President. This is my second year with the Thunderbirds (and the first time we've been grounded due to sequestration.)
PROOF: (Me and the greatest Thunderbirds jet in existence) www.instagram.com/p/ZanHOQO4Yr/


Learn more about the Thunderbirds at www.instagram.com/afthunderbirds , www.facebook.com/afthunderbirds and www.twitter.com/afthunderbirds

UPDATE: Thanks guys, but I'm signing off. I had a blast and wish you all the best of luck. The Thunderbirds look forward to seeing you at an airshow next year! We'll have someone else on AMA in the future and you can grill him too!

Cheers, TB5

Comments: 167 • Responses: 33  • Date: 

aero199216 karma

Hey Maj Jones. What's your callsign, and what's the story behind it?

Also, since the team transitioned to new sunglasses, can you mail me a pair of the old ones? Yeah? OK, thanks!

Thanks for your time with the AMA. Here you are being cool (congrats on the promotion) at MRY and here you are doing the awesome sneak pass at SNS.

afthunderbirds30 karma

Awesome pictures! As you can see on my helmet, my callsign is "Deuce." There are several stories to why I have that name - the primary one is that my wife (who flies F-15s) outranks me! So I am, technically, 2nd in command in my family - hence the name Deuce!

No, you can't have my old sunglasses. I like them better than the new one's anyway!

Pwninator14 karma

Did you commission through the Academy, AFROTC, or OTS?

I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess USAFA.

afthunderbirds28 karma


I worked in a bakery for 6 years before I quit my job and joined the Air Force in hopes of being a fighter pilot. People thought I was crazy, I THOUGHT I WAS CRAZY, but bottom line - if you dedicate yourself to reaching your goals, nothing can stop you

I_smell_awesome10 karma

What are you gonna have for lunch today?

afthunderbirds23 karma


Chromebrew10 karma

Do you ever sing this Song when you take off?

afthunderbirds14 karma

How did you know?

G3510 karma

What is the closest to death moment you've had?

afthunderbirds35 karma

When I crashed my brother's motorcycle. I didn't almost die from the motorcycle crash. He almost killed me because I crashed his bike.

In a jet? I've been lucky with no real close calls... sorry that's not very exciting, but it's a testament to our great maintainers keeping our jets tip top

edu_gon959 karma

Hey! What do you think is the coolest moment of your career?

afthunderbirds20 karma

When I got the phone call saying I was going to be a Thunderbird - hands down without a doubt. The second coolest moment was everything after that


Maj Jones,

I would love to hear the story of you ripping the wings off of a fighter. Care to share?

afthunderbirds24 karma

Ha! Maybe I embellished that statement a little... But, while performing the opposing split-s with TB#6, I flew through his jet wash. The force on the jet was so great that it litterally ripped my leading edge flap in two. I didn't notice this until after I landed - the jet flew just fine but WOW was that tear in the wing impressive.

gdoublerb8 karma

Why are we still using f-16's for demonstrations? It's a fine aircraft, but well past being a dominant fighter. Aren't the F-22 and F-35 considered better fighters with the added bonus of an extra engine and larger payload.

Not to mention that the need for "fighter" aircraft seems to be diminished with the emergence of drone aircraft. Don't get me wrong...I wish I had your job, but is there a future in flying f-16's?

afthunderbirds16 karma

I'd love to fly the F-22 in the demo - but we didn't make enough to dedicate a squadron of jets to the Thunderbirds. The F-35 is the next Thunderbird jet on the horizon, I'm not sure of the time frame though

aero19924 karma

[...] but well past being a dominant fighter.

I wouldn't go that far. Any wars in the near future can be fought with F-16s and other aircraft in its generation. Sure, 5th gen aircraft would be useful, but 4th gen jets will still be completely superior in any fight within reason.

afthunderbirds10 karma

The F-16s we fly are Block-52's. These are some of the most advanced F-16s we have and they are still awesome

BeaverCleavage8 karma

How would you describe your package:

  1. Adequate Force
  2. Shock & Awe
  3. Bunker Buster
  4. WMD
  5. Non-threat

afthunderbirds33 karma

it's classified

FentanylFreak7 karma

Talk to me about herding camels, this sounds interesting. Do you feel like a cowboy when you do it?

afthunderbirds27 karma

We were flying in the desert with absolutely NOTHING going on. I saw about 100 camels and thought, why not? You know those things are fast! (Disclamer) No camels were injured or endangered in the making of this story

rvansteenberg7 karma

With the Govt nearly 17 Trillion in debt, no end to the deficit spending in site, and the reality that it could take decades to pay it off even if they did stop deficit spending, do you really for see the Thunderbirds ever flying again. Do you guys have any plan to get reinstated?

afthunderbirds19 karma

That's the question...

Yes, I think we will fly again, I think we will fly next year. Air Force leadership has big decisions to make regarding distributing funds. The fact remains that the Thunderbirds are the most powerful recruiting tool the AF has. In an all voluntary force, recruitment is very important and we provide a large impact to millions of people for a relatively small cost

myharte7 karma

Hi! We're really going to miss seeing you in San Antonio this year!

afthunderbirds15 karma

I'm going to miss the river walk!

GhostlyTraveler5 karma

I was CAP for 6 years I've worked hundreds of air shows mainly as the taxy boy for the plane parking lot, all I wanted growing up was to go to embry riddle and be you. My question is would you wanna go 1v1 some day in Ace Combat?

afthunderbirds9 karma

You might embarrass me!

Steven14954 karma

What's the scariest thing that's happened to you during an air show?

afthunderbirds9 karma

Every time I do the high alpha

robertthetire4 karma

If you weren't in the Air Force, what other job would you do?

afthunderbirds15 karma

Before I was in the Air Force, I was a baker. I worked for 6 years in a bakery BUT I quit that job and joined the AF because I wanted to have fun. I can't imagine doing anything else.

Aquinas264 karma

Hey, thanks for doing this AMA.

What's the scariest moment you've had while flying?

Additionally, what would it take for you to reconsider continuing?

afthunderbirds10 karma

I was doing a "knife edge" pass - that's where I fly in a stright line at 90 degrees of bank for 2 miles at 500 knots and my engine had a slight loss of thrust. We were practicing over the desert and the closest airport was 7 miles away. Luckily, it was just a "hickup" with the engine and I was able to land safely. Had the engine not come back to life, I'm not sure I could have made it to the airport!

JodiMichelle2 karma

How does the knife edge work? Like, if your left wing is down do you need full right rudder to keep the nose up?

afthunderbirds6 karma

It takes a full boot of right rudder to keep the jet level - even then, there is a slight sink rate

ApolloAbove4 karma

Thank you for doing an AMA!

What part of the tour do you love best?

afthunderbirds8 karma

I love going to the different cities around the country and meeting so many great Americans.

St3als3 karma

Why are you grounded? Sequestration can never be good.

afthunderbirds12 karma

The effects of sequestration took all of our money we use to pay for jet fuel, aircraft maintenance, etc. BUT WE'LL BE BACK NEXT FISCAL YEAR!!!

_Normz_3 karma

I'm leaving August 27th for BMT. I plan on getting a degree while in and trying to go officer, any tips on this? A few of my dads friends who were officers said to do your job, do it above and beyond, and don't get in trouble. I take thats a given, but any tips would be great! Also love the shows, been going since I was a little kid at Ft Lauderdale beach.

afthunderbirds5 karma

Congrats! Yes, get your degree - that is your #1 priority along with doing the best you can at your job. Become the expert and make your leadership WANT to send you to OTS because you will be perfect for it. The sky is the limit - If I can do it, you can too!

western_style_hj3 karma

Ever pull any pranks on the Blue Angels, or vice versa?

afthunderbirds9 karma

No, but our bathroom here in the Thunderbird hangar is dedicated to the Blue Angels. We even have a little F-18 on the handle of our urinal!

marcy_anon3 karma

Blue angels are what it's called when you light your farts on fire. Is that where the term originated? Ironic it's the bathroom.


afthunderbirds9 karma


zalphinian3 karma

Just want to say thank you to you, and all of our other Troops for your dedication to this country and the sacrifices you make on our behalf.

Also, you have one of the coolest jobs on the planet!

afthunderbirds8 karma

Thank YOU! We sincerely appreciate your support

nohandsnick3 karma

Major Jones,

Sir, I flew down to see your last show at Titusville, FL and it was absolutely awesome... thank you!

My question is: How do you see the USAF as remaining an independent service in the future? Competence in tactical air/ground missions and many facets of the "Strategic Pivot" to the Pacific are now shared with the USMC, USN and our Allies. With the growing threat of A2/AD, do you see Long Range Strike and Air Superiority missions with extremely high-cost and fewer assets in play being sufficient to maintain the USAF's independent role in our national strategy? What does the force of the future look like to you?

Thank you for kicking ass, sir.

afthunderbirds11 karma

Thanks for your support at our show! We had a blast at Titusville.

Your question sounds like it was taken out of an Airpower Studies course! Keep in mind that we are extremely limited in our abilities on the ground if we don't have Air Superiority. While airpower may not be able to win a war by itself - it's a fact that you can't win a war without commanding the skies. Great question!

ZeroBrace3 karma

Maj Jones, What is the hardest part of flying with the Thunderbirds?

afthunderbirds5 karma

It takes an incredible amount of concentration day in and day out while performing the demo and that can wear on you, but it's too much fun and well worth it.

Everyone on the team has to have the same level of attention to detail to ensure we have great (and above all, safe) show. It's amazing to be surrounded by such an outstanding group of individuals

Radjago2 karma

Outside of the your checklist of safety procedures, do you have any habits or rituals that you go through before flying?

afthunderbirds9 karma

6 and I always high five before the flight. I say "fly safe" and he says "SOLOS RULE!"

fa532 karma

Are there any planes you haven't flown that you wish you could fly?

afthunderbirds9 karma

I'd love to fly the A-10. They have an awesome mission and an incredible jet

Fallenashes2 karma

My understanding is that the Thunderbirds are used for public entertainment and PR/recruitment. With our shrinking AF, why invest money in your program? We've already put Tops In Blues on hold to save some cash.

afthunderbirds10 karma

Our main mission is to recruit the next generation of Airmen. The Thunderbirds have a huge outreach to millions of people each year. So many people in the Air Force are here today because they saw the Thunderbirds when they were a kid. We have to continue to invest in the future or we will pay the price down the road.

And the show is awesome...

ArmandoBascoCuesta2 karma

Dear, Maj. Jones

As a past CAP Cadet and Current USAF Trainee, there are a few questions that i have in mind, here they are.

  1. I know that there is a big diference between real-world Thunderbirds and the YS Flight Thunderbirds (of which i command) But since You are the Lead solo and one of my best friends is a lead solo on the YS Thunderbirds team, is there any tips you can give to perfecting his side of the demonstration as a lead solo pilot? Anything will do!

  2. After your tour with Thunderbirds how many years are you planning on serving in the USAF?

  3. Before you enlisted in the USAF, have you seen the Thunderbirds as a civilian? If so what was your first Thunderbird Airshow that you went to?

Keep up the outstanding work! And thank you for answering these questions! I hope that someday i will be a pilot in the worlds greatest Air and space force, the US Air Force! We at the YS Flight Thunderbirds overwhelmingly enjoy your shows and can't wait to see you guys in 2014!


afthunderbirds3 karma

1)I can't help you out with your YS Flight Thunderbirds, but I think it's awesome you guys are doing that. 2) I will stay in the Air Force as long as they'll keep me! 3) Seeing the Thunderbirds is the reason I joined the AF! I saw them when I was working on the roof of a bakery. It was the most unbelievable thing I had ever seen. The next day I signed up for flight lessons at the local airport and within a year I was at Officer Training School - Anything is possible!!!

catofnortherndarknes1 karma

1.) Would you consider yourself a natural adrenaline junkie? Meaning, have you sought out situations or stimulation that would frighten other people all of your life? I'm thinking of the type of kid who jumps off of garage roofs and things like that?

2.) If the answer to #1 is "yes", do you enjoy any other activities outside of flying that are of the "adrenaline-pumping" variety, like bungie jumping or big rollercoasters?

3.) Have you ever thrown up as a consequence of a maneuver?

afthunderbirds6 karma

1) No - but herding camels with an F-22 is pretty fun (Don't tell the Emeraties I did that)

2) I'm actually a little scared of heights

3) My first - probably 10 flights - in a jet I puked so much my socks ended up in the barf bag

juice_of_the_mango-1 karma

Just to be clear:

The recently passed NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) has an amendment that legalizes propaganda in the US.

My question is: Were you ordered to do this AMA?

afthunderbirds15 karma

Yes, when I mentioned in my opening statement that I have spoken with the President, I was referring to the phone conversation I had with him when he asked me to do this AMA.

Only kidding

Since we're not flying around the country, we're still trying to get the word out about the great opportunities the Air Force has to offer. Plus it gives us the chance to interact with the public since we're not traveling

[deleted]-19 karma


afthunderbirds37 karma

Thanks for your support