Curran soars as part of Air Force Thunderbirds
Medford native will take part in flyover at Daytona 500 to start 2020 show season, her second on the team
On February 16, Major Michelle “Mace” Curran will begin her second and final year on the U.S. Air Force Demonstration team - “The Thunderbirds.”
The team will do a flyover at the Daytona 500, kicking off a season of 36 different appearances at air shows and events all over the country. The Daytona 500 will be the team’s only televised flyover for this year’s schedule.
This year Curran will be the No. 5, Lead Solo Pilot. She will be responsible for commanding the two solo aircraft in coordination with the other four “diamond” jets airborne during performances. Curran majored in Criminal Justice at the University of St. Thomas and earned her commission in 2009 through Air Force ROTC. Prior to joining the Thunderbirds, she served as an F-16 instructor pilot at NAS JRB Fort Worth, Texas. She has logged more than 1,500 flight hours as an Air Force pilot, with more than 160 combat hours over Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and Operation Resolute Support.
Curran’s first year on the team included four fly overs including the Super Bowl, 32 show locations with approximately 60 shows. The team runs a busy schedule with only one day off mid-week. Thursdays are spent traveling to show locations. The team flies their own F-16s to all show sites and air refuel en route when necessary.
After arrival at a new show site the team practices on Friday to get familiar with the location. The shows are usually two days, Saturday and Sunday. Monday is departure day as they head back to their home base near Las Vegas, Nev. where Curran lives with her husband, John. Tuesdays the team is back at their home base and practices up to two times in preparation for the next show. The Thunderbirds perform for people all around the world, displaying the pride, precision and professionalism of American Airmen. In every hour-long demonstration, the team combines years of training and experience with an attitude of excellence to showcase what the Air Force is all about.
The sharply choreographed, drill-style ground ceremony kicks off the demonstration by showcasing the attention to detail and esprit de corps that defines our enlisted members. As the jets take to the skies and fly only a few feet from wingtip to wingtip, the crowd gets a glimpse of the awesome skills and capabilities that all fighter pilots must possess. The solo pilots integrate their own loud and proud routine, exhibiting some of the maximum capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon – the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter jet.
Show schedules include school, hospital, and community visits and local public relations appointments. According to her mother Ronetta Curran, it is a very grueling schedule from February to November.
Included during the season, reviewing applications, interviews, and the beginning prep for bringing in the new pilots and team members for the next show season.
During the off season from November through February is training, flying, and debriefing twice a day in preparation for the next show season.
The days in the life of a Thunderbird pilot are fast paced, hectic, and long. However, there are many great experiences/opportunities as well.
A few of Major Curran’s highlights included flying over the Super Bowl game, being on the sideline during the game, and celebrating on the field after the game, the fly over and Red Carpet for the Captain Marvel Premier, and flying down the Hudson River in New York City with other demonstration teams. While these are exciting once-in-a lifetime experiences, inspiring the next generation is the most rewarding. Major Curran’s favorite moment was when a little girl- maybe six or seven - came up to the autograph line after a show and said, “I’m going to take your job.’ she responded with ‘Yes! High five.”
During an air show Major Curran performs various maneuvers - the Reflection Pass, Opposing Knife Edge Pass, Calypso Pass and Vertical Rolls (the other solo does the sneak pass) to name a few, demonstrating the maximum capabilities of the aircraft.
For those wanting to see Curran and the Thunderbirds team fly in person, the closest regional shows to Medford are in Duluth, Minn. on July 18 and 19 and in Chicago on August 15 and 16.
The complete 2020 show season is as follows: February 16: Daytona 500, Daytona Beach, Florida (Flyover) Mar 14: Laughlin AFB, Texas – “Fiesta Of Flight” Mar 21-22: Luke AFB, Arizona – “Luke Days Air and Space Expo” Mar 28-29: March ARB, Calif. – “March Field Air and Space Expo: Thunder Over the Empire” April 4-5: Lakeland, Florida – “Sun-N-Fun Fly In & Expo” April 18-19: Maxwell AFB, Alabama – “Beyond the Horizon Air & Space Show” April 25-26: Columbus AFB, Mississippi – “Wings Over Columbus” May 2-3: Fort Lauderdale, Florida “Fort Lauderdale Air Show” May 9-10: Beale AFB, Calif. – “Wings Over Recce Town, USA” May 16-17: Shaw AFB, South Carolina – “Shaw Air and Space Expo” May 23-24: Miami Beach, Florida – “Miami Beach Air & Sea Show” May 28: Colorado Springs, Colorado – “USAFA Graduation Fly Over” June 6-7: Salinas, Calif. – “California International Airshow” June 13-14: Ocean City, Maryland – “OC Air Show” June 20-21: North Kingstown, Rhode Island – “RI ANG Open House and Air Show” June 27-28: Hill AFB, Utah – “Warriors Over Wasatch Air & Space Show” July 4-5: Battle Creek, Michigan – “Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival” July 11-12: JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska – “Artic Thunder Open House” July 18-19: Duluth, Minnesota – “Duluth Air & Aviation Expo” July 22: F.E Warren AFB, Wyoming – “Cheyenne Frontier Days” July 25-26: Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota – “Ellsworth Air & Space Show” August 1-2: Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota – “Grand Forks AFB Air Show” August 15-16: Chicago, Illinois – “Chicago Air & Water Show” August 22-23: Avoca, PA – “Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Armed Forces Airshow” August 26: Atlantic City, New Jersey – “Atlantic City Thunder Over The Boardwalk Airshow August 29-30: New Windsor, New York – “New York Air Show” September 5-6: Gardner, Kansas – “KC Air Show 2020 September 12-13: London (Ontario), Canada – “Airshow London” September 19-20: Huntington Beach, Calif. – “Pacific Airshow” October 3-4: Minden, Nevada – “Aviation Roundup Airshow” October 10-11: Edwards AFB, Calif. – “Aerospace Valley Air & Space Show” October 17-18: Fort Worth, Texas – “Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show” October 24-25: Rome, Georgia – “Wings Over North Georgia” October 31-November 1: Orlando, Florida – “Lockheed Martin Space & Air Show” November 7-8: New Orleans, Louisiana – “NASJRB New Orleans Air Show” November 14-15: San Antonio, Texas – “2020 JBSA Air & Space Show & Open House