Thunderbirds have arrived in Great Falls, performing at this weekend’s airshow

The sound of fighter jets have returned to Great Falls this week and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will be performing this weekend at the 2022 Flight Over the Falls airshow at the 120th Airlift Wing of the Montana Air National Guard.

Capt. Daniel Katz will be flying in the No. 6 Thunderbird as the opposing solo during the show this weekend.

Thunderbirds in town for airshow July 23-24

He’s in his first season with the Air Force’s demonstration squadron and said “it’s the best job in the Air Force.”

The L.A. native joined the Air Force in the hopes of becoming a pilot and was commissioned from the Air Force Academy in 2013.

He arrived with the Thunderbirds team this week in Great Falls and said it’s “awesome to work with the team, travel ands put on awesome air shows.”

Before joining the Thunderbirds, he was an F-16 pilot with the 510th Fighter Squadron at Aviano Air Base in Italy. He’s logged more than 1,100 flight hours, according to his Air Force bio.

Airshow dates set; Thunderbirds to perform

Katz said that the Thunderbirds revamped their show in 2020 during the COVID pandemic.

wp-1658452850956He said that they’ll do some of the same maneuvers but in a different order and “it’s a true show…that will make you feel real proud inside.”

Fighter pilots tend to have a certain level of confidence but to prepare for the close, precision flying that locals will see during this weekend’s show, Katz said that they spend 30 days in training at the beginning of the season.

Helena native part of Thunderbirds team; excited to showcase Montana [2017]

They start further apart to get the hang of the maneuvers and move closer as they train and gain confidence.

Each trip is a bit different, but the Thunderbirds get into a routine for their arrivals, rehearsals and show days at locations worldwide.

Katz said that they spent Thursday doing site survey flights, getting their bearings and visual references in the Great Falls airspace.

Thunderbirds have landed in Great Falls [2017]

On Friday, they’ll do a rehearsal show and they’re scheduled to fly at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

Katz said they use the crowd to “maintain that energy level we need to perform a good show. We use the crowd to hype us up and help us perform.”

He said they use the crowd to set up their passes and when he does a pass, he looks down to see the crowd.

Katz joked that he can’t wave since he’s operating a large, fast flying piece of equipment, but the crowd can give him a wave.

He said they’re excited to be in Montana and looking forward to performing for the Great Falls crowd.