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THEY'RE HERE

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READY:Major Michelle Curran, pilot with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds poses next to her jet on Thursday at Grissom Air Reserve Base.
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AT REST:The U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds sit at Grissom Air Reserve Base after practice flights on Thursday.
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PRACTICE:U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds taxi at Grissom Air Reserve Base after a practice flight on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. The team is town or the Grissom Air & Space Expo this weekend.

BY JARED KEEVER - jkeever@perutribune.com

Residents who heard the roar of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds around midday on Thursday can keep their ears turned to the sky in the coming days for repeats of the performance.

“That’s it for today,” Maj. Michelle Curran told the Tribune early Thursday afternoon following the practice flights above Grissom Air Reserve Base.

Curran and her fellow pilots are in town for the Grissom Air and Space Expo this weekend. The group is going to do some local school visits today followed by a practice show in the afternoon and then they will be in the skies again for the spectators on both Saturday and Sunday.

It’s a fast paced schedule that Curran seemed pretty accustomed to

The fifth female pilot in the Thunderbirds' history, she said they do about 65 shows a year.

Thursday’s work was about getting visual references they need to perform their maneuvers and get their timing down.

“It’s really to just get the lay of the land,” she said, “before we do a practice on Friday.”

Curran said she’s been with the Air Force’s demonstration team for one year, but before she could climb into the show cockpit she spent six years flying the F-16 while stationed in Japan and Texas.

The work seemed a natural fit.

“I was kind of a thrill seeker growing up,” she said.

And competitive.

After joining the Air Force for an ROTC scholarship she said she was drawn to the competitiveness of the fighter program which she eventually qualified for.

The Thunderbirds are just one of the teams in town for the weekend’s air show.

Additional flying acts include a F-16CM Viper, KC-135R, A-10 Warthog and the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team as well as an FG1-D Corsair, P-51 Mustang, F-5A, and F-86 Sabre demonstrations, and an American Champ Super Decathlon.

There will be “static” displays on the ground for visitors as well.

The show is the first of its kind at the local air reserve base in 15 years.

General admission and parking for the show are free. Gates open each day at 8:30 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. Flying acts are scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m., weather permitting.

For more information visit grissomairshow.com.