Everywhere around the world, they’re coming to America. Every time that flag is unfurled, they’re coming to America… Neil Diamond sings as 6 of the most spectacular jet fighters fly over a crowd of thousands. We are at 500 feet, 450 MPH, and only 18 inches apart from one another. This is the opening of one of the most awesome demonstrations of American Airpower. This is about the pride, precision, and power that your fellow Americans demonstrate every day as part of the world’s greatest and most respected air and space force. This is a USAF Thunderbirds airshow.

Hey y’all. I am Major Josh Boudreaux, Thunderbird #2, and I am excited to be able to chat with you today. I am the left wingman for the Team and my job is to maintain formation position as close as 18 inches from the leader and back the commander up throughout the show with confirmatory radio calls as we transition between maneuvers. I would not consider myself an adrenaline junky (my brother is a Hurricane Hunter pilot and I think he earned that designation), but I love flying anytime I can. I was fortunate enough to attend the Air Force Academy, be on the wrestling team, fly and instruct as a glider pilot, compete as a cross-country glider pilot and jump out of airplanes with the parachute team.

I love my job (if you want to call it that), but I also enjoy spending my limited amount of down time with my three young sons and my beautiful wife. I am a southern boy from Covington, Louisiana (40 miles north of Nawlins – New Orleans for non-locals). I love to fish, hunt and spend time outdoors. We have lived all over the country, in Asia and in Europe (7 places in all over the past 10 years). My family and I have enjoyed the adventure the Air Force has provided us with. I have flown over 3,000 hours, 100 combat missions and been to over 20 countries.

With that, I invite you to ASK ME ANYTHING! Please feel free to share with me your thoughts and questions.

Comments: 1747 • Responses: 59  • Date: 

chad_sechsington491 karma

do you guys ever say, "THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO!!" before taking off?

here is some context for those not in the know.

afthunderbirds631 karma

we say...."IT'S SHOWTIME!!!"

tyrannustyrannus455 karma

If you could pick one fictional aircraft to fly, what would it be?

afthunderbirds1548 karma

I wish I had an Ironman suit

1stOnRt1346 karma

What do you think of the snowbirds?

afthunderbirds783 karma

Awesome group of professionals

360walkaway299 karma

What's the Highway like?

afthunderbirds283 karma


turnnburn1228 karma

Do you know when the Thunderbirds/Blue Angels will start performing at airshows again?

afthunderbirds360 karma

I hope Oct 1 we start flying again, but to be honest - we don't know. The government has pulled our funding; we have closed combat fighter squadrons; we have cut back to the point that we can not keep our competitive edge. we are hoping that changes soon. The Thunderbirds are the largest recruiting tool the AF has, but right now the AF must preserve combat capability. We are making changes throughout the DoD to find ways to save cost. Once that process is complete, we should now how many shows we can perform and when.

kicksnspliffs141 karma

Hello, I am an Israeli-American and hear crazy things about the Israeli Air Force. Have you had any experiences with them? If so, what do you think of them?

afthunderbirds236 karma

I have worked closely with the Israeli Air Force. i have flown, lived, and hung out with many Israeli soldiers/airmen and women. they are awesome! My roommate in college was Israeli.

gdthnkn129 karma

a few questions for you. 1) what types of aircraft have you flown? 2) what is your favorite/least favorite aircraft?

I grew up wanting to be a pilot, but found out in MEPS that I was "color blind" 20/15 vision, I can see colors just can't pass that stupid 'dot' test. Became a grunt instead.

afthunderbirds185 karma

I have flown several gliders, T-37, T-38, F-15, F-16, T-6...The F-16 Viper is the best by far. A sports car in the air.

gdthnkn84 karma

Nice, my boss used to be a F-16 mechanic... he says he hates that aircraft with every fiber of his being! Thanks for the answer. Hope you will be coming to VA soon.

afthunderbirds108 karma

We hope to as well. The F-16 is a great airplane... not sure why he had a dislike for it. It is also over 30 years old, so we probably have a lot of the initial kinks worked out.

byondhlp101 karma

Can I get a ride?

afthunderbirds173 karma


Aiyhlo84 karma

First off I have a ton of admiration for what you do. I wish I would've had the drive as a teen and focus to try and become a pilot.

I am wondering what is the scariest moment you've had in your aviation career?

Also what is your favorite plane to fly?

What would be your dream plane to fly?


afthunderbirds272 karma

Scariest moment... when I was at the Academy, the wing of my glider snapped in half and I could not get the aircraft to produce enough lift to continue flying. I had to jump out the glider and pull a rip cord 500 feet above the ground as the glider began to spin towards the ground. That was a little more excitement than I had hoped for that day.

favorite plane is the F-16...it is a great jet and very capable. The T-37 was the coolest cloud chasing aircraft ever and I could spin it on purpose. Gliders are peaceful and take quite a bit of finesse. You could put wings on a lawn mower and I could find something great about it.

Everyday I can wake up and go fly is a dream. i am hoping to fly the F-22 or F-35 one day.

Forkster81 karma

Hi! Thanks for doing this AMA. I just got accepted to the RCAF's pilot program, are there any tips you could give a new airman?

afthunderbirds122 karma

attitude...it is all about having an awesome attitude and when you are faced with challenges...think about why you started.

JG00G73 karma

Are you more comfortable flying your jet or driving your car?

afthunderbirds298 karma

jet....too many crazies on the road. In my car (granted it is fast), i can not just go vertical to escape some knuckle head texting in the next lane

OlacAttack60 karma

Ever work with Dudette? They flew most of our CAS missions in 2011 in RC East Afghan, I was an infantry rto so when I heard those ladies voices I always got a tickle. Something about a hot sounding pilot moving at 600 mph with the power to vaporize some rock lizards just turns me on I guess :p

Heres a link to them if your not familiar, first all female air combat team. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/04/05/flying-combat-landing-history/

afthunderbirds84 karma

Dudette Flight is a great group of ladies and they are trained killers. i did not want to make them made. The would fly all night and then get back to the base and crossfit for over an hour. TBird #4 worked with them in Afghanistan. I was with Viper.

afthunderbirds59 karma

This has been a great experience! Thank you all for joining in and asking some good questions. Please join our facebook page to keep the conversations going. i look forward to a great season next year with Blue Skies. HIGH SHOW, 2

Not_Faking_This59 karma

Have you broken the sound barrier? If so, what did it feel like?

afthunderbirds207 karma

many times....you dont feel it in the cockpit; you just see the airspeed/mach number change. If I wanted to joke with you, i would say that you stop hearing yourself talking, but speed is all relative. At Mach 1.5, things started to shake a little bit

ob256 karma

Pretty cool you're doing this, but so far we've had AMAs from Thunderbird #1, 2, 4, 5, and 6. Why all the AMAs, and where is #3?

afthunderbirds103 karma

3 did an AMA already. I would love to talk to everyone personally on the road at airshows, but we can not do that right now due to sequestration so we are using tools like REDDIT to interact with people across the world. Is there anyone else you would like to hear from??? the doctor, #9, will be on ESPN next month and then REDDIT along with other team members.

pimpslap5553 karma

Are there intense volleyball games that you play shirtless or is that fictional?

afthunderbirds150 karma

only if i have my dogtags

PinkSockLoliPop52 karma

Do you spend any time on Flight Simulator X? If so we should fly together!

My whole life I've been fascinated with everything aviation related. Some of my first words were aircraft names. Being at an airshow and watching aircraft yank-n-bank all across the sky makes me cry with joy. Nothing else brings me the joy and feelings I get when I'm around awesome aircraft. I'm 24 and it feels silly admitting that hahaha.

Soon I plan on volunteering my time at the C.A.F. in my home town. We have one of the only air-worthy B-17's down here! I'm on the spot and having a hell of a time figuring out what I want to say and ask. I hope to hear back from you shortly and we can talk a little bit about flying!

Oh! We had an F-16 go down near our base out here. Luke AFB. Yesterday right about 7pm local time. So far, the story is bird-strike. People on the ground described the engine sputtering, spitting flames out, and some parts falling off. Then after the 2 pilots (yeah it was a two seat trainer) ejected safely, people say the plane continued the traffic pattern to make another 2 turns before finally going down.

I've never heard of any aircraft doing this... does the F-16 have the ability to RTB without a pilot? Or have someone else on the ground immediately assume control in an attempt to save the plane?

Thanks! I can't describe enough how much what you and many others around the world do has impacted me. I just wish to fly with you guys someday!

afthunderbirds91 karma

Thanks for your enthusiasm for aviation. The aircraft most likely slowed down (pilot raising the nose and getting into best parameters for ejection) before the ejection handle was pulled. They were most likely above 2000 feet so the airplane is going to go somewhere. the turns it made are not programmed it is just like driving your car in a big parking lot at 30 mph and jumping out...bumbs, speed changes, and several other factors will guide that vehicle in any direction. same here. The pilots did exactly what they were trained to do and NOT ONE person or building was harmed/damaged. I applaud them

turnnburn149 karma

you said that you have flown 100 combat missions. What squadron were you in for those combat missions?

afthunderbirds89 karma

I was with the Triple Nickel, 555 FS

turnnburn144 karma

Out of all of the countrys you've been too, which was your favorite? (aside from America)

afthunderbirds149 karma

ahhh...that is tough because every country has it's positives and negatives. South Korea was awesome in the fact that the people were always moving, working, having a purpose and direction. Their society could accomplish anything they wanted. No crime but it was crowded and I stuck out.

Italy was frustrating at first but they know how to live life. They do not eat to live, but they live to eat. they enjoy their day, take breaks to bike, rest and enjoy their families. I had the best neighbors - they were German, but lived in italy and my landlords treated us like family. We miss Italy for sure, but the $8/gallon gasoline and $600/month electric and gas bill, and 20% tax is tough. My kids could speak (small words/salutations) in 4 different languages there and that is unbelievable to me, but common for Italians.

I would say Italy was our favorite to live, Germany would have been great. I love Spain, but I have only visited for a month. Sweden is unbelievable as well, but obviously cold at times.

Meys41 karma

Having flown in as many combat missions as you have, I would imagine you had a few close calls. What can you tell us that isn't classified?

What is your favorite sandwich?

afthunderbirds117 karma

sandwich....??? i am more of a po-boy fan and that would be a shrimp po-boy from Salvo's in Belle Chasse or a Roast Beef Po-Boy from Bear's in Mandeville.

I have not had close calls in the air. Safety is paramount and the primary objective most of the time. I have definitely had some exciting ones that I will never forget. My first combat sortie was during the darkest night, lights out, into enemy territory that had surface to air missiles to take out enemy weapon storage facilities. That night my heart was racing the entire 8 hour sortie. After that it was pretty much downhill.

turnnburn141 karma

Have you always wanted to be a pilot?

afthunderbirds95 karma

when I was a small kid I wanted to be an actor and then President of the USA. I dont think either of those are going to work out.

when I turned 10 my brother joined the Air Force as an F-15 crew chief. he took me to an airshow in New Orleans and I became intrigued. My neighbor took me flying in his aircraft a few weeks later and I was hooked. i started flying whenever I could. I got my pilot certificate shortly after my driver's license and I would fly after school. From that point it did not make sense to do anything else.

Zanderjay40 karma

Are flight video games fun to you or do they not justify any part of the experience of flight?

afthunderbirds143 karma

I have to admit, I do not play video games unless I am in the desert on a deployment playing call of duty with the bros/gals. If i am at home, I am enjoying my family outside or building legos inside.

fatsquatch38 karma

What's your call sign? (Does everyone have one, I'm assuming?)

afthunderbirds121 karma


skeemeritis33 karma

I'm a 31 year old engineer. Would I have any shot at ever becoming a fighter pilot if I went into the Air Force/Navy at this age?

afthunderbirds109 karma

to be honest..no

rkethledge25133 karma

What's something that most people wouldn't know about your job?

afthunderbirds100 karma

good question... i guess, just like everyone else, sometimes I bang my head on the desk as my computer shuts down for no reason in the middle of filling out some paperwork that will never help me do my primary job. We all have the little things that test us, but you got to always focus on the positive.

turnnburn130 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA, I have one question: What is the most enjoyable part of flying?

afthunderbirds58 karma

The people. The flying is a close second, but I understand, especially in today's times with sequestration, that can end at any time and without great men and women working on the planes, supporting the operators and managing every detail that goes into making the show a success - you can easily fail. The people are what make the difference.

citizenkane8628 karma

Do the other pilots ever get tired of your liberal shenanigans?

Seriously though, is there any maneuver (is that the right word) that you don't like doing during the show, whether its difficult, dangerous, boring, or whatever?

afthunderbirds104 karma

I enjoy all the maneuvers...the challenging ones more so than the rest because of the level of concentration and physical aptitude required. The rolls presented me with the most challenges initially because I have to push the stick, roll and use inside rudder towards lead to stay in position. I you get out of position (behind on the roll, too wide/close) you do not really have an out option because the entire formation is rolling into your aircraft.

I never used rudders in fighters before expect during BFM/dogfighting and now I use the rudders for almost everything to include the BB rejoin where I have to kill 200 kts of smash in about 500 feet.

avgwhtguy128 karma

What do you think about the idea that you work in marketing? And the amount of money tax dollars the Air Force and other branches spend on marketing?

afthunderbirds114 karma

legitimacy - Yes. I will answer partly with a question. Have you met the people, lived in their communities, seen life through their eyes? I have, our military members have and that is why we fight. We fight for those who can't. Imagine growing up in a community of tyranny. told what you must believe, fearing for your life if you speak out. War is an ugly thing, no soldier worth his salt wants to go to war; yet there are some things worth fighting for - one being freedom. The areas of the world that do not live with freedom have the ability to allow terrorism to exist and grow. Imagine for a second that you don't have the freedoms that you do and a terrorist group comes into your community, home, family. what would you do, who would you trust?

Lethal force on Americans - the law forbids us to do such an action. Any order would be unlawful and the military member should not and would not follow it. please read the difference between the active, guard and reserve and our nation's ability to use the active duty military within the US. Now, what does a police person do...do they use lethal force on American citizens, what circumstances must be present, what law governs that, etc (Also, what are your thoughts on the second amendment?...think about that for a second).

Marketing...you bet. The US has an all volunteer force. We could save the small amount of money used to recruit and just draft, right??? what would that cost the American people? The value of an all volunteer force is, in my opinion, immeasurable.

If you want to save your tax dollars and enlist, you are welcome to do that. I think you get a bargain and a much better military if you let those who want to be there decide. For them to decide, you must educate them on the opportunities.

I hope this answers your questions...a lot of people ask the same thing, but the alternative does not sound better to me.

NDBeans92921 karma

How accurate is the Dos Gringos song, "Ballad of Thunderbird 2"?

afthunderbirds37 karma

VERY accurate. I have no idea how to look left

ElementZero19 karma

How do you feel about the "Teamwork" motivational poster of the Blue Angels being in AF basic training classrooms?

afthunderbirds45 karma

I think it is funny....how about when i go to the Air Force BX and there is an Air Force coffee mug/poster with F-18s on it? With sequester, maybe more pilots will start working at the BX, who knows?

SlickNick219 karma

Did going to the Air Force Academy improve your chances of becoming a pilot? or is it just as possible to become a pilot by going through ROTC?

afthunderbirds37 karma

Any person that graduated the Academy that was qualified to fly, got to fly.

limbodog16 karma

Hiya! Seeing the Thunderbirds at Hanscom AFB when I was a kid (we're talking early 1980s) was a HUGE deal to me. Got me forever obsessed about military aircraft and flight.

So my question is: how the heck did you get into this gig of deliberately flying a seat strapped to a giant engine in extremely close formation with other seats strapped to giant engines?

afthunderbirds38 karma

I started flying in the Air Force in 2003 - wanting to fly anything. I got to eventually fly the F-16 and after 6 years and 2 combat deployments, I wanted to represent the men and women I worked with. I applied and got hired. The flying was just a nice extra. :) I was inspired as a kid by the Thunderbirds and I wanted to do the same for another kid out there (maybe even my own sons, but they think their uncle the cop is cooler right now...)

pennNteller15 karma

Having flown 100 combat missions I'd imagine there's a good chance you fired at and killed an enemy. If so (and if this isn't too personal) what kind of effect did that have on you?

afthunderbirds90 karma

Protecting the friendlies on the ground is the primary objective. If our guys called needing airpower, we responded. Eliminating enemy combatants that used unconventional warfare like IEDs and dressing like the locals to execute attacks and put innocent civilians in harm's way does not bother me. I sleep well at night.

wilm_de12 karma

saw you guys last august flying off the beach in Atlantic City. great place to see the show! my sons (5 & 8) loved it. That show ended early because of a bird strike (i think). How serious of an issue is that for you guys, because I guess there's no real time or space to get out of the way if a flock of birds flies in front of the formation?

afthunderbirds17 karma

Our primary concern is safety - for the crowd, the jets and the pilots. we practice scenarios everyday and brief our emergency plan so that we mitigate the risk. The crowd's safety is the primary objective

jets1629 karma

What kind of advice can you give a 17 year old guy that wants to be a pilot? What can I do to improve my chances of becoming a pilot in the Air Force?

afthunderbirds32 karma

Hard work! you will be surprised how "lucky" you get from just working hard with a great attitude. There are so many opportunities out their to fly (for free). ROTC and Civil Air Patrol as just 2.

BunsenBeaker9 karma

First, thanks so much for doing this AMA! What do you think you will do once you retire from active duty? Do you plan on continuing as a pilot in the civilian world? I would think that everything would just be boring after a modern fighter!

afthunderbirds22 karma

Maybe some rich guy will let me fly them around in an F-16

fredy049 karma

Don't really have a question, just wanted to say thank you for inspiring thousands of boys and girls, myself included, in aviation. I can still remember my interest in aviation arising after the first time I saw those amazing red, white, and blue flying machines streak across the Vegas sky with such grace and magnificence. Thank you for your service.

afthunderbirds15 karma

Thank you for your support and we hope to get flying soon. We hope to meet you when when get flying again - come see us at the hangar!

whatdoy0uknow8 karma

What kind of matter-of-fact information about aviation can I tell a pilot friend of mine that'd be impressive?*

afthunderbirds49 karma

So there i was, inverted...

bobnye7 karma

I was wondering if you ever get together with your counterparts around the world, snow birds, red arrows, for example, and do flying "things" together. If so, what is that like? I imagine each group does things slightly differently, so it would be difficult, but fun to see and experience.

afthunderbirds21 karma

A former Red Arrow pilot lives near me and we meet up when we drop the kids off at school. There is a lot of pointing at our watch and stuff.

audio_phile09216 karma

This is pretty slick, thanks for doing this.

So what inspired you to become the person you are today?

afthunderbirds10 karma

I just wanted to do something bigger than myself. I originally did it to make my parents proud and now I do it to inspire my kids.

Karitz6 karma

Why didn't you join the Navy and become a "real" fighter pilot? ;)

afthunderbirds25 karma

Being on a ship for a long time was the only reason (although now i would love the opportunity to do an exchange). i was very close to going to the Naval Academy, but the Air Force Academy showed me their campus and I had never seen mountains before. They tricked me! j/k

Ser_Derp5 karma

If you could no longer be apart of the Thunderbirds this very moment, what job would you want to pursue? Would you be happy doing anything else?

afthunderbirds9 karma

Home Depot Greeter and in my spare time, work with Elon Musk on his Tesla venture and the Space X programs

thepolodoc5 karma

How much communication do you actually do when you are in the cockpit? Are you ever allowed to say no to something that your commander tells you to do if you believe it is too dangerous at that point in time?

afthunderbirds6 karma

We communicate a lot...and I back the commander up and if I need to say no, i do. Has not happened yet (goes back to the trust needed)

TehJackal5 karma

Do you think that the thunderbirds are going to go the way of the blue angels and lose a lot of air/show time because of federal spending cuts?

And shout out from being from my home town! Almost did AFROTC after high school but wouldn't ever really be able to fly so ended up a Devil Dog instead ha! Love the thunderbirds though from my time in JROTC at St Paul's, still have a signed poster from some of the team a while back!

afthunderbirds7 karma

Awesome! I graduated SPS in 1999 and did JROTC as well as wrestling.

The Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels are both currently stood down.

hydethejekyll5 karma

Not a question, but... Despite all the things America has/is doing wrong. When I go to an air show and watch the Thunderbird's fly, I am proud. Like a Father watching his son take his first steps. Or a Mother, holding the baby she fought to deliver. Thank you for being Awesome!

afthunderbirds8 karma

Thank you. I feel the same way sometimes. Whenever the news puts a dark cloud over me it is immediately erased when I see the awesome things that our men and women have volunteered to do for a greater cause.

Sasasquatch4 karma

Pancakes or Waffles? Give a reason if you'd like.

afthunderbirds18 karma

trying to ease up on the carbs...western Omelette

Half_time4 karma

my uncle flew in the thunderbirds. he flew on the wing when the diamond crashed in 1982. i remember my grandparents saying how scary it was when they heard it on the news. no one at the air force would release the names of the victims so the sat in suspense for hours. they finally begged one of the officials to let them know if he was safe or not. he went on to fly a total of 4 years because of the break they took after the crash.

i was wondering if you've ever had any close calls? do you think acrobatic flying is more or less dangerous than flying in combat?

afthunderbirds4 karma

I am honored to hear from you. We have a memorial above the stairs we take to the jets that we see and think about everyday. After that crash we changed a lot of things are are safer. Since that day, the TBirds have not had a fatal crash since. Safety is our primary concern

kresentphresh3 karma

I was going to ask what your favorite jet was, but someone already did - I'm curious, though, you said you dream of flying an F22 or F35 (as do I) - What do you have to do to "work your way up" to those jets, how does that work?

Tried to join the AF myself, but they said my tattoo was too big. AFTER they told me to get LASIK and lose 50 lbs.

afthunderbirds4 karma

timing is sometimes the answer...other than that - be the best

Ser_Derp3 karma

Have you ever shot down another jet during one of your combat missions? Are dogfights like these as action packed and long as they are in movies, or is it usually a quicker ordeal?

afthunderbirds5 karma

If a dog fight lasts longer than a few seconds, you are about to die because his buddy is behind you and about to write his name on your wings with 20mm HEI

gbeezy093 karma

USAF Veteran here, Firefighter to be exact :)

Why are you guys too cool to talk to us?! :(

How intense are dog fights? How many have you been in?

afthunderbirds4 karma

Not too cool at all...it's just that every time we see y'all things are going so well for us. invite us over and we would gladly hang out and ride along

JHayday3 karma

Do you think there is a possibility that in the future your's and other teams such as the Blue Angels could work together to create a joint display for an event? If so what do you think would be the positives and negatives of this?

afthunderbirds5 karma

We do a cross-training event every other year with the Blues, but both of us being in one location (for a show) is not as efficient as spreading out to accomplish our missions.

FavoriteCereal2 karma

First off, I met you once ( in new Orleans), and you were super nice to me and my friends.

Secondly, what's your favorite cereal?

afthunderbirds2 karma

Lucky Charms, but my kids keep eating the marshmallows and putting back the oats...looking for a new one

dasher032 karma

Whoa whoa whoa... Is it true that you're the one that was in the TG-10D that snapped over the stadium?!

afthunderbirds2 karma


Porkrindsandranch1 karma

Do you ride a motorcycle? If so, what kind? What's your favorite kind of riding? If not, why not?

afthunderbirds1 karma

I used to have a Harley VROD; I sold it in Italy because the roads are slick and my wife wanted me around for the rest of her life. i miss it, but in my old age of 30, I am taking less risk. (only driving a motorcycle every now and then increased my risk significantly)

utspg19801 karma

Is there any talk of you guys switching to the F22? I'd think you could perform some pretty nifty maneuvers at air shows in those things.

afthunderbirds1 karma

we did not buy enough F-22s to put them in the show...we may switch to JSF

guriboysf1 karma

One of my good friends from high school was the daughter of this guy. Heard of him?

afthunderbirds1 karma

of course

Milhouz1 karma

Do you guys ever play any flight simulators? and also how do you guys get so close to each other? A buddy and I try to do some of your maneuvers on FSX and we can never get the jets close enough together without passing each other like and endless game of leapfrog.....

afthunderbirds1 karma

Funny enough...we actually fly in formation and do shows all across the world every week to keep our skills from atrophying. Now the sims we have our state of the art and very expensive, but a fraction of the cost of the jet fuel we burn. It can not replicate the seat of the pants, but we can practice every kind of emergency possible while flying in close formation with a 360 degree view

Batrok1 karma

How do you justify burning so much fuel, on a regular basis, for entertainment? Are you at all concerned about it?

afthunderbirds2 karma