An uncharacteristic bobble in the Thunderbirds’ tribute flight over the Los Angeles area on Friday has lit up the forums but hasn’t prompted any comment from the Air Force. Video shot by a news helicopter shows the No. 6 airplane doing an emergency breakaway from the signature delta formation as the No. 3 F-16 rolls in his direction as the team approaches Newport Beach. The No. 6 quickly forms up but the formation looks shaky for a few seconds before settling back into the smooth precision that is normal for the team. No. 6 does, however, seem to keep a few more feet of separation from No. 3 compared to the other jets as they go through a series of turns.

The news commentators at the L.A. ABC affiliate apparently thought it was all part of the act and one exulted “That is some cool stuff” as No. 6 rolled 90 degrees and vapor puffed from the right wingtip. “Wow” agreed his female co-host.


  1. I’ll preface this by saying the closest I’ve ever been to an F16 is at an airshow, so I’m not passing judgement, just trying to understand what happened in the video.

    It looks like Lead made an abrupt(?) turn to the right, #3 got too close, and #6 saw a loss of separation and moved quickly out of the way. #2 and #5 (the two on the left side) went wide and had to catch up.

    Was the Lead’s turn too sharp? Or was that normal and something else happened?

  2. Lead will be hosting at the bar tonight as his un- telegraphed sudden course reversal is what started the event. That being said stuff happens and #6 broke out when formation integrity was lost which is exactly the right thing to do.

    • Yup. Lead’s job, besides commanding the formation, is to provide a stable and consistent set of maneuvers for the team. He is buying tonight. Especially if this video is reviewed by the team members.

  3. Hard to day what happened which led to that, but you can bet the group is going over it and there’s more to the story than we know now. Whether or not they decide to release a statement is yet to be seen. Could have been a mechanical issue with one of the jets, or maybe something with the pilot. Strange how the guy on the left of the formation kept more distance also. Could have been something as simple as one of the pilots sneezing real hard that caused him to bump the stick slightly. Just speculating.