Thunderbirds Get 'Thumbs Up' to Fly After 11-Month Hiatus - 8 News NOW

Thunderbirds Get 'Thumbs Up' to Fly After 11-Month Hiatus

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NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- The United States Air Force Thunderbirds received notice this week they will return to the skies after given the "go ahead" to resume flying in air shows next year.

The squadron was one of the casualties of the sequestration. But, after the Department of Defense calculated its budget for 2014, leaders decided they could afford to bring back some of the community outreach programs, like the Thunderbirds.

One of those people who is ready to strap back in and hit the tarmac is Major Michael Fisher, a pilot with the high-flying group.

"Anytime you can tell a pilot he can go fly, obviously they're going to be excited," said Fisher.

He calls it getting as close to heaven as a living man can get.

"When the opportunity came up to apply for the team, I thought, 'what a great opportunity this will be.'"

From mid-March to mid-November, Thunderbirds are usually seen in air shows across the country. More than 130,000 people came to see the neck-straining maneuvers at the last Aviation Nation.

"When I get to engage with them, share my story, and other airmen's stories, tell them about flying, tell them about the Air Force, and get them excited about it, man I love that."

It was nearly a year ago sequestration budget cuts grounded the Thunderbirds -- and canceled Aviation Nation, which still remains off the calendar.

"Everybody was excited, everybody was very fired up, that lasted about 5 seconds," said Lt. Col. Greg Moseley, leader of the Thunderbirds. "Then the realty of what's happened to us has set in."

Moseley said the news came with a lot of work to do. Eleven jets which have been sitting in hangars for months now need to be ready for show time.

"Our maintenance officer has a charge to prepare and get those aircrafts ready to return to flight and our operations officer is getting our folks ready and our pilots ready to return those guys to the air," said Moseley.

Bringing back the Thunderbirds re-connects the airmen with the people they're sworn to protect, Fisher said, adding it's a mission bigger than the pilots themselves.

"They might not remember me, but they'll remember the Thunderbirds and what we did there in their hometown," he said. 

Leaders said they were still unsure of how many shows the group will fly in because a schedule has not yet been released.

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