Sun n Fun Announces Thunderbird Replacements


Image: Air Combat Command F-16 Viper Demonstration Team

Sun ‘n Fun President John “Lites” Leenhouts announced on Monday that the Air Force has sent the Air Combat Command F-16 Viper Demonstration Team to fill the vacant performance spot left when the Thunderbirds cancelled their scheduled performance last Thursday. The cancellation was due to the loss of Thunderbird pilot Maj. Stephen Del Bagno in a training accident last week. It hasn’t yet been announced when the Thunderbirds will return to the airshow circuit.

According to Leenhouts, Air Force Command has been working hard with Sun ‘N Fun to fill the unexpected vacancy. In addition to the F-16s, the Air Force is attempting to bring in an F-22 and F-35. The planes are currently stuck in Santiago, Chile, due to weather. The F-16 team is already on site at Sun ‘n Fun.

The Viper Demo Team is stationed at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. The team, whose stated mission is to inspire the future generation of pilots and maintainers, emphasizes precision aerial maneuvers. They will be performing Thursday through Sunday, April 12-15, as part of Sun ‘n Fun’s regularly scheduled airshows.