EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” recently wrapped up two weeks of winter training at Spaceport America, about 20 miles southeast of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

It was the third visit to Spaceport America by the USAF display team since September 2021.

“Spaceport America is honored that the USAF Thunderbirds selected our site again for their winter training” said New Mexico Spaceport Authority’s Executive Director Scott McLaughlin. “The team of over 70 people have stayed in the local area for the last 2 weeks and have created a significant economic impact in this region. We wish the Thunderbirds the best of luck as they prepare for their display season and we hope to see them back again soon.”

Photos courtesy of Spaceport America

The Thunderbirds’ training season, from November through March, is a time to integrate and synchronize the team and practice their demonstration display. The 2023 winter training trip kicked off at Spaceport America, New Mexico and will continue to Edwards Air Force Base in California.

The USAF Thunderbirds feature six F-16 Fighting Falcons, the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter aircraft. Assigned to Air Combat Command, the squadron is composed of 12 officers and more than 130 enlisted personnel serving in nearly 30 Air Force job specialties.

2022 saw the first winter training by the USAF Thunderbirds outside of their homebase at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. The decision was made to increase aerospace opportunity and flexibility for the team’s training needs, while also allowing them to practice in conditions of increasing difficulty.

Spaceport America located just outside of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, boasts 6,000 square miles of restricted airspace, low population density, a 12,000-foot runway, and 340 days of sunshine and low humidity. These favorable conditions, along with entirely dedicated airspace, allow the team to hone their demonstration skills before moving on to more challenging flying conditions and time constraints like they might see during the show season. 

The USAF Thunderbirds have a rigorous schedule, performing hour-long demonstrations across the world for nearly 30 weekends between March and November. The team’s first public performance takes place February 19 when they will perform a flyover at the Daytona 500.