VIDEO: Meet the Thunderbirds

Why is the "5" on the Thunderbirds' lead solo pilot's plane upside down?

The skies over coastal Rhode Island are going to get mighty noisy this week as the 21st Rhode Island National Guard Open House & Air Show gears up this coming Saturday and Sunday. The noisiest of the gaggle of performers this year is the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, who arrived into Quonset Tuesday morning in their F-16 fighter jets.

This year's headliners, the Thunderbirds are set to perform both days in the afternoon sessions. The crew will be honoring Army Sgt. Michael Paranzino of Middletown as part of their "Fallen Warrior" salute. Paranzino's name will be seen on the gear door of the number one aircraft to honor the soldier, who tragically passed away in 2010 after an IED attack.

Six planes will be in the air for the Thunderbirds this weekend, but one number stands out...or rather, stands upside down. Major J.R. Williams – pilot of the number five aircraft and lead solo pilot – says it's all about tradition. As one of the two solo crafts, number five shows off the performance capabilities of the F-16 (which as a range of negative three G's up to nine G's). Because the craft is often upside down when it crosses show center, the number five is flipped upside down so that it appears right-side-up to the crowd.

Learn more about the Thunderbirds at their Web site here.


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