Aerobatic Teams

Losses and Ejections

List being compiled - more to add

Date Air Force A'cft Unit - Serial


crashed crew photo seat
13th December 1954
F-84G   Thunderbird solo training at Luke Capt. George Kevil killed  
26th September 1957
F-100C   Thunderbird solo training at Nellis Capt. Bob Rutte killed  
9th October 1958
C-123     crashed on way to airshow 50 miles NW of Boise, Idaho 14 members of Thunderbirds    
12th March 1959
F-100C   Thunderbird mid air contact with another aircraft during solo training at Nellis Capt. Charles D. Salmon
12th March 1959
F-100C   Thunderbird ??
landed safely
27th July 1960
F-100C   Thunderbird Crashed during a solo proficiency flight, Nellis Capt. John R. Crane
[his brother died in the loss of a USAF F-86 on 26th October 1958]
26th October 1958
F-86L 53-0569 330th FIS
Stewart AFB
Crashed  on approach to landing west of Stewart AFB, near Salt Lake City during snowstorm Lt. Gary W. Crane
[his brother was killed flying a USAF Thunderbird F-100 on 27th July 1960]
6th April 1961
F-100F   Thunderbird Crashed during training at Nellis.    
Maj. Robert S. "Bob" Fitzgerald
Capt. George A. Nial
24th September 1961
C-123    Army Golden Knights crashed on take-off at an airshow in Wilmington, NC TSgt John Lesso [Thunderbirds C-123] killed    
9th May 1964
Republic F-105B-15RE Thunderchief 57-5801

Thunderbird 2

Aircraft broke apart during a climb due to structural problems. following a low pass over Hamilton Air Force Base, California Captain Eugene J. "Gene" Devlin killed  
Friday 16th September 1966
F-100   Thunderbird Collided during practice performing loop over Nevada desert
Captain William B. McGee
16th September 1966
F-100   Thunderbird 1stLt. Chris Patterakis
12th October 1966
F-100F   Thunderbird Crashed following collison during a flight at Indian Springs Auxiliary Field in Nevada  
Capt. Robert Morgan
ejected outside seat envelope
Maj. Frank Leithen
Exec Officer
killed in plane crash
12th October 1966
F-100   Thunderbird Landed damaged plane Captain Robert E. Beckel
emergency landing
9th January 1969
F-100D   Thunderbird solo training at Nellis Capt. Jack Thurman killed  
4th June 1972
F-4E Phantom II 66-0321 Thunderbird

Right Wing

Duls Airport Maj. Joe Howard ejected 1500 feet - killed - blown back into crash fire  
21st December 1972
F-4E Phantom II 67-0367

while loaned to team

Thunderbird Crashed during flight test at Nellis. AFB, NV    
Capt. Jerry D. S. Bolt killed Tech Sgt. Charles H. "Chuck" Lynn killed  
18th March 1973
F-4E Phantom II 66-0290   crashed Holloman AFB, NM. [ Had sustained damage in landing on 20 Jan 71 (#8) - repaired]      
Captain Mike "Rip" Blaisdell ejected  
25th July 1977
Northrop T-38A Talon   Thunderbird Crashed during manoeuvres at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming Capt. Charlie Carter  deliberately remained in aircraft to avoid crashing into crowd killed  

Although it was 30+ years ago, and I heard this story from my great-uncle who was also Charlie's uncle (on the other side of the family), the story as I remembered it   Charlie was the narrator and back-up pilot, so was not flying in the actual show.  Accompanying him in flying over a Stock Show/Rodeo was a media person.  They had some kind of trouble.  (I don't think I ever knew if it was engine, or what.) Charlie had the guy in the plane with him eject, and Charlie was able to get the plane past all the people on the ground, but crashed into a pen of livestock before he could eject.

The San Antonio Light of July 26, 1977: carried a report of the loss
part of which is printed below 

".   .   .   A Luling** man killed in a crash of a jet trainer belonging to Air Force's have given up his own life rather than allow the jet to crash into 3 clump of campers Capt Charlie Carter 33 of Luling was killed Monday in the crash of the plane on a rain-swept rodeo parking lot as the plane was attempting to land at a nearby airport. "
**(Luling, Texas is about 60 miles east of San Antonio.)
Full story can be found at

Lisa Bailey
in email 14th February 2008

9th May 1981
Northrop T-38A Talon Thunderbird 6 Engine failure during a low approach. Crashed in a  Layton field south of the runway Hill Air Force Base, Ogden, Utah Capt. David L. "Nick" Hauck  deliberately remained in aircraft to avoid crashing into crowd killed  
8th September 1981
Northrop T-38A Talon   Thunderbird  Ingests seagulls and stalls while leaving Cleveland. Crashed into Lake Erie Lt. Col. D. L. Smith Cmdr/Ldr killed no ejection
Monday 18th January 1982
Northrop T-38A Talon   During a practice over Range 65 the team was conducting a line abreast loop manoeuvre when  a malfunction in the lead plane caused mid-air collision "Diamond Crash," at Indian Springs Maj. Norm Lowry - commander/leader killed  

Northrop T-38A Talon   Capt. Willie Mays - left wing killed  

Northrop T-38A Talon   Captain Joseph "Peter" Peterson - right wing killed  

Northrop T-38A Talon   Capt. Mark Melancon - slot killed  
News Article

CPT Joseph "Peter" Petersen of the Thunderbirds.  Died in January 1982 while attempting a difficult aerial manoeuvre over the Nevada desert

In the Thunderbirds accident the formation leader was Maj Norman Lawrey, aged 37. He had taken over as the team leader in October, following the death of the previous leader, Lt Col David Smith, in an accident at Cleveland Airport, Ohio. Number Two was Capt Willie Mays, aged 32, who had been on the team for two years, as had Number Three, Capt Joseph Peterson, who was also 32. Number Four was Capt Mark Melancon, aged 31, who joined the team last October as the team's "slot-man".


The Thunderbirds accident in 1982 (4-ship line abreast loop involving 4  T38As) was actually caused by a malfunction in the pitch trim system and the 'feel-springs' that provide the pilot with feedback.


The board determined that the leader came over the top pulling on the stick with the normal stick force necessary to complete the loop (in a T38, the loop is started at approx 500 KIAS; and with a nominal 4.5-5.0 G pull, you will be inverted at 200 KIAS about 10,000 feet above your entry altitude).  Unfortunately, the pitch trim feel-springs were mis-positioned, giving the lead pilot a stick force that was normal for that situation when in fact the stabilator was not deflected enough to generate a sufficient pitch rate to complete the loop in the altitude remaining.  The pitch rate was insufficient in the 3rd quadrant of the loop (from inverted to 90 degrees nose-down) which led to excessive loss of altitude and once the aircarft was at a 90-dgree nose-down pitch attitude, insufficient altitude remained for recovery, although lead did everything possible to salvage the situation..


As I recall the lead aircraft impacted the ground with a very slight nose-up attitude; # 2 and 3 impacted near-level; and #4 was very slightly nose-down.  The "word" was that given another 200 feet, they would have made it.  In any case there was NO mid-air collision involved.


Best Regards,

in email August 2010

14th February 1994
F-16C Block 32H  Thunderbird no. 6
Crashed at Indiana Springs Auxiliary Airfield, Nevada during "spiral descent" manoeuvre. Pilot ??? survived    
An Air Force Thunderbirds pilot was seriously injured yesterday when his F-16 fighter jet crashed in the desert during practice for the team's aerial demonstration show. The pilot, 32-year-old Capt. Thomas H. Lewis III of Atlanta, was flown by emergency helicopter to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, where he was listed in serious condition in the hospital's trauma unit. Air Force spokesman Sgt. Bill King confirmed the single-seat fighter crashed about 12:30
14th September 2003


video takes a few moments to load


Thunderbirds F-16C crashed during display, Mountain Home AFB, ID. USA

Captain Christopher Strickland








Capt. George Kevil F-84G December 13, 1954
Lt. Bob Rutte F-100C September 26, 1957
CWO Floyd L. Pulley C-123 October 9, 1958
MSgt. Boyd O. Lambert C-123 October 9, 1958
SSgt. George J. Stevens, Jr. C-123 October 9, 1958
SSgt. John H. Bishop C-123 October 9, 1958
SSgt. George H. Blanchard C-123 October 9, 1958
SSgt. Charles C. Hillhouse C-123 October 9, 1958
SSgt. Robert L. Meyer C-123 October 9, 1958
A1C Elmer Houseman, Jr. C-123 October 9, 1958
A1C Richard T. Lashley C-123 October 9, 1958
A1C Don L. Seany C-123 October 9, 1958
A2C Jerry R. Adams C-123 October 9, 1958
A2C Adrian Gayther C-123 October 9, 1958
Mr. Joe Paul C-123 October 9, 1958
Mr. Stanley Shegda C-123 October 9, 1958
Capt. C.D. Salmon F-100C March 12, 1959
Capt. J.R. Crane F-100C July 27, 1960
Maj. Robert Fitzgerald F-100F April 6, 1961
Capt. George Nial F-100F April 6, 1961
TSgt. John Lesso C-123 September 24, 1961
Capt. Gene Devlin F-105B May 9, 1964
Capt. Jack Thurman F-100D January 9, 1969
Maj. Joe Howard F-4E June 4, 1972
Capt. Jerry Bolt F-4E December 21, 1972
TSgt. Chuck Lynn F-4E December 21, 1972
Capt. Charlie Carter T-38A July 25, 1977
Capt. Nick Hauck T-38A May 9, 1981
Lt. Col. D.L. Smith T-38A September 8, 1981
Maj. Norm Lowry T-38A January 18, 1982
Capt. Willie Mays T-38A January 18, 1982
Capt. Mark Melancon T-38A January 18, 1982
Capt. Pete Peterson T-38A January 18, 1982



Serials , Sqn. photos, further details amendments appreciated

 Below are temporary  links to specific Aerobatic Teams and their Losses and Ejections - All are considered works in progress and addition material / amendments welcomed - and acknowledged

Blue Angels

Red Arrows

 Frecce Tricolor
Green Falcons