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Thunderbird One fired...

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Thunderbird One fired...

Old 29th Nov 2017, 22:27
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Thunderbird One fired...

No, really...

It says so here...

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing Commander, relieved Lt. Col. Jason Heard of command of the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron upon the completion of the 2017 season effective Nov. 20, 2017.

While Heard led the team through a highly successful show season, Leavitt lost confidence in his leadership and risk management style.

Leavitt determined that new leadership was necessary to ensure the highest levels of pride, precision and professionalism within the team.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but one that is ultimately in the best interests of the Thunderbird team. I am personally grateful for Jason’s dedication to the 2017 season,” Leavitt said.

Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, the Thunderbird’s 2016-2017 Operations Officer, has temporarily assumed responsibility of the team until a new commander is selected.

The Thunderbirds are preparing for the 2018 season, training their new pilots, and look forward to inspiring crowds around the country.
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Old 29th Nov 2017, 22:39
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There was me thinking of Gerry Anderson. "FOB, Virgil"
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Old 29th Nov 2017, 22:59
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Me too!

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Old 29th Nov 2017, 23:00
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Is there a precedent for a Thunderbird CO being fired?

Several Blue Angel skippers have been relieved (or allowed to relieve themselves), Bob Stumpf, Donnie Cochran, Dave Koss, and Greg McWherter immediately come to mind.

While Heard led the team through a highly successful show season, Leavitt lost confidence in his leadership and risk management style.
Were there serious Thunderbird flying issues uncovered, e.g. the Dayton crash, or was there sexual hazmat found in the squadron as with a couple of the Blue Angel names above?
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Old 29th Nov 2017, 23:05
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A bit more here from "Stars & Stripes" including some statements from a Tech Sgt spokesman for the Thunderbirds:

"However, Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boitz, a spokesman for the Thunderbirds, said the crash was not the reason Leavitt dismissed Heard. He said Leavitt had concerns that Heard’s leadership style was resulting in unnecessary risk within the Thunderbirds’ demonstrations, “which eroded the team dynamic.”

“We are on the road together more than 200 days per year, executing flying operations with absolutely no margin for error,” Boitz said. “As a result, absolute trust and teamwork in both our professional and personal dynamics are foundational to our mission.”

https://www.stripes.com/news/air-for...dence-1.500053
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Old 29th Nov 2017, 23:19
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Salute!

Whoa!

With the sexual harassment crapola body count now building by the minute, there may be something there. But that's TBD.

I saw the last show of the Blues by two commanders. One was at Houston back in the 80's or 90's and the boss cancelled the show after the first maneuver. He had problems with the others on the team and I thot it was a good move. So he resigned. The second one was back in 2012 or 2013 at the Sun'n'fun venue. The flight made a :break" that I had not seen before, and I live close enuf to see the Blues practice and the super Beach show every year, plus the "homecoming" around Vet's day. They came down a bit lower thn normal and only slot followed leader. Wingies went left and right and zoomed. They rejoined and rest of the show seemed normal. Next day the Leader quit and said he was "losing it" and had violated the altitudes for the maneuver and so forth.

This is not a good thing.

I did not like the Dayton accident, but I place more blame on the young nugget with minimal time in the jet and I do not think the boss had much say about that, but you never know. The C. Springs thing was a different matter, and the boss was different.

My suspicion is that there is a "personal" problem here.

Gums opines..
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Old 30th Nov 2017, 01:16
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Gums - do you mean he may have had too authoritative a style...?
I assume that there'd be no room for `tricky' personalities...
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Old 30th Nov 2017, 06:17
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Maybe he was trying to make the show slightly interesting and that doesn't bode well for the most boring display on earth. The Thunderbirds would be better as a static display as the manoeuvres would be more dynamic. They've probably done him a favour by firing him and removing him from the team.....at least nobody will yawn at him any more.
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Old 30th Nov 2017, 07:25
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Originally Posted by gums View Post
Salute!

I did not like the Dayton accident, but I place more blame on the young nugget with minimal time in the jet and I do not think the boss had much say about that, but you never know. The C. Springs thing was a different matter, and the boss was different.

My suspicion is that there is a "personal" problem here.

Gums opines..
Gums,

I respectfully disagree. Blaming the FNG is all about not accepting the fact that supervision was not done properly. Faulty supervision always points back to leadership, and this is why #1 was fired. If you have a pilot with minimal time on the jet, you make sure he is trained, briefed and supervised until he has proven that he can be let loose on his own, and even then, you continue to supervise him. Had the T-birds supervised this pilot properly, he would never have ended up in a corner with no options to divert and no skills to solve the situation without ending up inverted on the grass at the far end.

I recognize that the pilot in this incident had plenty of experience on the Hawg, but that is a total different animal than the Viper, and you can not just assume that experience from one jet will do you any good on another type. Of course, had this incident happened in the Hawg, it would have happily gone off-roading without flipping over.

Last edited by F-16GUY; 30th Nov 2017 at 08:29.
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Old 30th Nov 2017, 20:38
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There are other areas that are suspect here..........it is not just about supervision

Originally Posted by F-16GUY View Post
Gums,

I respectfully disagree. Blaming the FNG is all about not accepting the fact that supervision was not done properly. Faulty supervision always points back to leadership, and this is why #1 was fired. If you have a pilot with minimal time on the jet, you make sure he is trained, briefed and supervised until he has proven that he can be let loose on his own, and even then, you continue to supervise him. Had the T-birds supervised this pilot properly, he would never have ended up in a corner with no options to divert and no skills to solve the situation without ending up inverted on the grass at the far end.

I recognize that the pilot in this incident had plenty of experience on the Hawg, but that is a total different animal than the Viper, and you can not just assume that experience from one jet will do you any good on another type. Of course, had this incident happened in the Hawg, it would have happily gone off-roading without flipping over.
Fascinating; a selection process sends a guy to a premier aerobatic team who appears unable to make a basic airmanship decision when conditions are unsuitable for landing. Supervision? Maybe part of the issue but there are other failings here; surely?
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Old 30th Nov 2017, 20:41
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Old 30th Nov 2017, 23:58
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Salute!

I'll bow to F16guy on this one.

There could have been a "loose" atmosphere in the unit. And where was the boss when the first attempt had failed? As a new guy with so little total time and type time I would have called home.

The approach speeds are not real close, so landing the Viper is a bit more tricky, and the sucker flat out does not like to plant on the runway. Has great anti-skid, but landing a few thousand feet long and at very high speed sets up a bad scenario.

I have seen a squad/unit with piss poor leadership and sure enuf there was an "incident" or two. None fatal, but our other units in the wing noted it.

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Old 1st Dec 2017, 02:32
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Originally Posted by gums View Post
I saw the last show of the Blues by two commanders. One was at Houston back in the 80's or 90's and the boss cancelled the show after the first maneuver. He had problems with the others on the team and I thot it was a good move. So he resigned.
I'm thinking that this was probably Donnie Cochran:

Skipper quits Blue Angels

By Ernest Blazar, Navy Times staff writer
Vol. 45, Navy Times, 06-10-1996, pp 22.

Citing his own flying troubles, Cochran resigns

The skipper of the Navy's elite Blue Angels flight demonstration team bluntly blamed himself for the team's troubles May 28 and resigned the coveted post.

Calling it the most difficult decision of his career, Cmdr. Donnie L. Cochran, 42, stepped down because of personal "training difficulties" that he said were threatening the safety of his team's performances.

"It is with deep, personal regret that I announce today my resignation from the world's greatest flight demonstration team," said Cochran in Pensacola, Fla., the Blue Angels' home.

"Facing training difficulties and not desiring to impair the future viability of the team or its performance, I voluntarily decided to step down."

Cochran had commanded the elite unit since November 1994, and the team had been troubled for some time. Last September, Cochran grounded the Blue Angels and canceled two exhibitions because of concerns about the safety of the team in general -- and its skipper, specifically.

What's next for Cochran isn't clear. He was selected for promotion to captain by the O-6 board that convened this spring and awaits reassignment. [he retired as an O-6 - Airbubba]

Cochran's move was hailed as courageous by former Blue Angels pilots.

"I am continuously amazed by his intestinal fortitude," said a former Blue Angels pilot. "If I had to put up with the same kind of pressure he has, I would have cracked a long time ago."

Nevertheless, other fliers believe the two-week stand down in 1995 and Cochran's resignation last week indicate Cochran wasn't up to the job of leading the team. None agreed to say so on the record, however.

Former team members described Cochran as a solid but not outstanding pilot who was not of the caliber needed to excel in the extraordinary maneuvers for which the team is famous. During his 18-year Navy flying career, Cochran has amassed an impressive record. He has accumulated more than 4,630 flying hours and 888 carrier landings. He has done two tours with the Blue Angels -- first as a team member, from 1986- 89 --and more recently as skipper.

Before joining the team, Cochran flew F-14 Tomcats and commanded the Sundowners of Fighter Squadron 111.

Without disputing his successes, however, former Blue Angels team members suggested that race played too large a role in Cochran's selection for skipper.

Cochran was the first African-American pilot to fly with the Blue Angels during his first tour with the team from 1986-89, and when he returned as the team's skipper, he was the first to do that, too. The Navy, which has long been under pressure to boost the number of minorities in its officer corps and in key, high-visibility roles, used Cochran, these fliers assert.

Saying they support increased recruiting of minorities and have nothing against Cochran, they said they resent Navy leadership for relenting to political pressure and putting Cochran in a job for which he lacked the skills.

"There are certain jobs where you can't have political influence, where lives are at stake," said one former Blue Angels flier. "I think in this case the Navy blew it. Now we are paying the price and I thank God the cost didn't come in lives lost."
Originally Posted by gums View Post
The second one was back in 2012 or 2013 at the Sun'n'fun venue. The flight made a :break" that I had not seen before, and I live close enuf to see the Blues practice and the super Beach show every year, plus the "homecoming" around Vet's day. They came down a bit lower thn normal and only slot followed leader. Wingies went left and right and zoomed. They rejoined and rest of the show seemed normal. Next day the Leader quit and said he was "losing it" and had violated the altitudes for the maneuver and so forth.
Hmmm... Was this possibly the 2011 show at Lynchburg, Virginia?

A 'knock it off' break is at about 1:50 into this video clip:



Blue Angels' top officer relieved of command

Kate Wiltrout

May 28, 2011

The Blue Angels' top officer was relieved of command at his request Friday, days after the team performed a lower-than-normal maneuver during an air show.

Cmdr. Dave Koss, commanding officer of Naval Flight Demonstration Squadron, made the request to Rear Adm. Bill Sizemore, the Navy announced Friday.

The Blue Angels' six F/A-18 Super Hornets jets flew below their specified altitude Sunday at the Lynchburg Regional Air Show. They had finished about three-quarters of their performance, and ended the maneuver after breaching the standard. All landed without damage or injury.

It isn't clear whether the pilots accidentally or deliberately flew lower than normal.

"I performed a maneuver that had an unacceptably low minimum altitude," Koss said in a statement. "This maneuver, combined with other instances of not meeting the airborne standard that makes the Blue Angels the exceptional organization that it is, led to my decision to step down."
https://pilotonline.com/news/militar...412038247.html
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Old 1st Dec 2017, 03:05
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Don't forget Cdr Bob Stumpf fired no nothing other than being in the same hotel...great guy and a splendid aviator [exchange A-4 driver with RAN]]]

Blue Angels commanding officer Bob Stumpf was denied promotion and retired simply for having gone to Tailhook '91 to receive an award. One of his remarks afterwards ...
"The essence of that warrior culture has been severely diluted in this decade. Politically inspired social edicts enforced since Tailhook '91 have rendered a ready room atmosphere so different now that it is nearly unrecognizable.
Pilots are hampered in their ability to train as warriors by the policies of their senior leaders.
They are faced with social experimentation and double standards in training.
Experienced pilots are forced to qualify certain trainees who may or may not demonstrate established quality standards.
This leads to distrust and resentment, two powerfully harmful factors in terms of unit morale, and thus military effectiveness."
Stumf was right, but nobody listened.
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Old 1st Dec 2017, 03:39
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Salute!

Ya got it, Bubba. And my old memory isn't what it should be. So I saw the cacelled show at Houston and the 'break it off" at Sun and Fun. You may have more time to hunt down the dates.

The Lynch break may have been preceded by the one I saw at Sun and Fun, Lakeland. I was there with my old A-7 buddies and seems to me that the CO quit after the next show and repeating the low pullout altitude once again. Gotta check dates, but seems that was it.

The Cochran deal is confusing, as I am sure I saw the Blues quit the show after the initial takeoff when the 4-ship went into their intitial move. It was prolly at Houston in the fall of 95 but I gotta check. I was there for a family event and took my brother and Dad to the show at Ellington.

Gotta tell all that it takes a real leader to admit not being up to the task as he sees it, whether he is right or not. Ya gotta have confidence in yourself to do the job.

Times have changes, folks. It ain't how good you are in the craft, but other things that have nothing to do with the craft. I am sure glad we are not in a big shooting war with peers or near-peers.

Gums tries to remember and opines..
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Old 1st Dec 2017, 20:05
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Originally Posted by Globe Trotter View Post
Fascinating; a selection process sends a guy to a premier aerobatic team who appears unable to make a basic airmanship decision when conditions are unsuitable for landing. Supervision? Maybe part of the issue but there are other failings here; surely?
Globe Trotter,

I agree. Supervision was most likely only part of he problem. However, faulty supervision is often one of the biggies when you look into root causes. What I wanted to point out to Gums, was that putting all the blame on the inexperienced pilot, is IMHO not the way to avoid such an incident from happening again.

Airbubba,

Wow, never seen that video before. If I was the pilot in the slot, I would have a serious talk with the leader. Flying close formation that close to the ground requires absolut trust in the fact that the leader will not put you in a bad position. He did, but he did the only right thing, took full responsibility and quit. I respect that.
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Old 1st Dec 2017, 21:35
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Wasn't Lt Col Heard an F-15 squadron commander at Lakenheath previously?


Would his relative lack of time on the F-16 (I believe he had little or no previous experience on type) had an impact on his leadership, say if you were a member of the team.....?
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Old 1st Dec 2017, 21:35
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Salute!

No problem, Guy.

The boss must make it clear to the nugget what to do when sh!t happens. The boss must also make it clear that there is no stigma about a WX divert, especially after one stab at the field and severe conditions.

My problem with the nugget has to do with the unconventional approach and not going around after 3,000 feet of runsway has gone by and no barrier at the other end.

I took one ( barrier) as a newbie in the Sluf after missing the BAK-12 or whatever and had to come to a halt using the doofer on the overrun that pulled out ship chains. Prolly could have stopped on the overrun, but hook was already down and had skipped the new, fancy gizmo. Rainy night and long, fast landing and anti-skid did what it was supposed to. I screwed up and the Sluf was not easy to accelerate for a go around. I only had 40 or 50 hours, and none in poor weather.

If the bioss at Nellis thinks a change is needed, then this is the best time now that the season is over. Hell, the guy may have been ready to rotate anyway.

I feel most of us here understand "get-home-itis" and such. And being a member of an elite group does not help to reduce pressure. But fer chrissakes, go someplace else and come back when things calm down. And don't invent an approach procedure you haven't practiced.

Gums opines...
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Old 5th Dec 2017, 21:55
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Originally Posted by gums View Post
The Cochran deal is confusing, as I am sure I saw the Blues quit the show after the initial takeoff when the 4-ship went into their intitial move. It was prolly at Houston in the fall of 95 but I gotta check. I was there for a family event and took my brother and Dad to the show at Ellington.
Donnie had a rough tenure as skipper of the Blues. A couple of shows were so bad in 1995 that the team went back to training mode and canceled performances.

The Mesa show March 25-26, 1995 apparently was cut short after safety concerns and a pilot change was made in one of the positions.

During the September 23-24 show at NAS Oceana, Virginia Donnie lined up on the wrong runway on a multiple plane opposing pass (perhaps the Delta Vertical Break). He grounded the team once again but they were apparently flying again by the Houston show October 21-22, 1995.

From the Baltimore Sun:

Blue Angels to return to the skies Daredevil team's leader had suspended shows after maneuvering error

October 05, 1995|By GILBERT A. LEWTHWAITE | GILBERT A. LEWTHWAITE, SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- The Navy's Blue Angels yesterday ended an unusual suspension of their daredevil demonstration program, caused by the team commander's concerns over his own flying performance and risks to the other pilots.

Cmdr. Donnie Cochran, 41, decided to take his team back into intensive training after he lined up above the wrong runway during a high-speed, low-level maneuver at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, Va., on Sept. 23.

The Blue Angels have not performed since, but yesterday after a final training session decided to resume their schedule of seven more performances this year, starting in San Francisco this weekend.

One of the team's regular performances is over the Naval Academy in Annapolis during Graduation Week in May.

Each Blue Angel maneuver involves a series of procedures that have to be performed in precise sequence and with split-second timing.

At each show the pilots choose local landmarks as "marks" from which to stage their maneuver. In pilot terminology, Commander Cochran has had trouble "hitting his marks."

"He did make some mental mistakes in the show, mistakes which alarmed him and which caused him to terminate the rest of the performance," said Lieutenant Kirby.

At Oceana, one of the heart-stopping maneuvers in front of a crowd of 150,000 required four planes to cross over a single point simultaneously from different directions, using two runways their "marks." Commander Cochran approached the point over the wrong runway.

"The other pilots saw he made that mistake and adjusted to it," said Lieutenant Kirby. "In that particular maneuver was safety impaired? It could have been, but it wasn't necessarily."

The suspension of their public program is their second this year, an unusual, if not unprecedented, setback for an individual team. They initially canceled a March show in Mesa, Ariz., after performance problems involving a pilot who was replaced.

"There are a couple of things going on here," said retired Vice Adm. Tony Less, who commanded the Blue Angels in the mid-1970s. "The first is the leader is very conservative about safety, and justifiably so in that particular environment. When you are flying that close together and that close to the ground, he needs to be.

"It's peculiar to this team that they are canceling shows for that. Has it happened before? Probably not, but maybe there has been a time or two in the past when it should have happened, but they managed to get through."
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Old 13th Feb 2019, 03:05
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A follow-up article on the firing from Air Force Times:

Thunderbirds commander was fired after grabbing neck of another pilot in bar argument

By: Stephen Losey   November 20, 2018
Months of tension over former Thunderbirds commander Lt. Col. Jason Heard’s perceived risk-taking leadership style boiled over in a “physical altercation” in a Maryland bar last September, in which Heard put his hands on another Thunderbird pilot’s neck.

Heard was relieved of command last November after a commander-directed investigation found he “did exhibit aggressive physical contact towards his subordinate," an unnamed member of the
U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, on Sept. 11, 2017, at an Irish pub in National Harbor, Maryland.

The report, obtained by Air Force Times via the Freedom of Information Act, said that on that evening, the unnamed pilot was “agitated” by how Heard was leading
Thunderbirds flights, and felt he was not following the “rules," or flying regulations. Multiple witnesses told investigators that they were concerned about the relationship between Heard and that pilot, and that the pilot told several teammates he thought Heard “was going to kill him” while flying.

The “tense relationship” erupted in the bar last September, the day after the Thunderbirds conducted a flyover for the Washington Redskins home opener at FedEx Field in Landover Maryland.


Seven witnesses observed the altercation, the report said, and “witness testimony was consistent that Lt. Col. Heard placed his hands around [the unnamed pilot’s] neck.” Witnesses told investigators that both Heard and the other pilot had consumed alcohol that evening. One of the witnesses, who was closest to the two, intervened and broke it up, the report said.That pilot wasn’t the only one who felt Heard was breaking the rules. Multiple witnesses testified that Heard “compromised safety and violated Air Force flying regulations and FAA regulations,” the report said.

Witnesses testified that when Heard led the Thunderbirds delta formation flyover above the Redskins game Sept. 10, 2017, they were flying at an altitude well below the minimum for a populated area, the report said.

Heard also intentionally took a diamond formation of Thunderbirds supersonic while en route to the Royal International Air Tattoo, the world’s largest military air show, in July 2017, witnesses told investigators. And in a third incident of perceived unsafe behavior, witnesses told investigators Heard attempted a loop on takeoff at an airshow in Boise, Idaho, even though the weather conditions were too overcast.

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