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Thunderbirds inspire students to aspire, achieve
Jul 09, 2014 | 3528 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MAJOR BLAINE JONES, a pilot with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, talks individually with students at Northridge High, after addressing a large crowd in the school auditorium - Photo by Louise R. Shaw | Davis Clipper
MAJOR BLAINE JONES, a pilot with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, talks individually with students at Northridge High, after addressing a large crowd in the school auditorium - Photo by Louise R. Shaw | Davis Clipper

LAYTON — These were no ordinary questions.

You could tell from the start that these students knew something about the subject of aeronautics.

“What’s the difference between flying a mechanical Cessna and an electric jet like an F-16?” asked the first student called on.

And Maj. Blaine Jones knew the answer.

Jones is a Thunderbird pilot, and was in Davis County for “Warriors over the Wasatch,” the Hill Air Force Base air show June 28 and 29.

The Friday before the show, he and crew chief Staff Sgt. Ben Ayivorh and assistant crew chief Staff Sgt. Kyle Balajadiu, met with students from the Utah Military Academy in Roy and students in the JROTC program at Northridge High.

   “It was pretty inspiring said Cason Moyer, a student. “I love my country and want to serve. These guys really showed me how to do that in a lot of new ways.”

Lt. Col. Ken Dewlen, who recently took over leadership of the JROTC program at Northridge, was excited about the interest and the exposure the visit generated.

“It’s a great experience,” he said, “a once-in-a-lifetime ting for my cadets to be that close to someone wh’s been in combat.”

Besides learning about how fast an F-22 can go, and how the Thunderbird team operates, students learned about what why the men chose to do what they do, and how they might work to accomplish something similar.

“If you’re trying to figure out what you want to do,” said Jones, “don’t limit yourself.

“We are absolutely no different from you guys. We’re just three regular guys that had a dream and followed it.”

Jones, originally from Kansas, told students he had earned a degree and was pursuing a successful career as a baker when the events of 9/11 made him want to find a way to contribute.

“I was comfortable growing up,” he said, but after the terrorist attack in New York City, things changed.

“I had this deep calling that I needed to do something to prevent that from happening again. I wanted to be a fighter pilot even though it would be a lot of hard work and take a lot of study.”

As they addressed the students, Ayivorh, of Virginia; and Balajadiu, from Guam, said it was a desire to contribute that led them to the U.S. Air Force, as well.

In answer to questions, Jones said a Cessna is guided by big motions and follows directions, but sometimes too well.

And F-16, he said, moves with just a little bit of pressure from his hand and “takes care of you a little bit” if you give it unsafe guidance.

“It keeps you out of trouble,” he said.

He called the F-22 Raptor  “bar none, the most amazing plane on the planet,” and said nothing has come close to it in 20 years.

He said the Thunderbirds have three different routines, based on weather and clouds. They practice their routines twice a day from November to March and the constant repetition results in help from muscle memory as they fly so close, so fast and so low to the ground.

To be on the demonstration team requires at least 750 fighter hours and seven or eight years of experience. 

Each plane has it’s own personality, and some of it “depends on how you treat them.”

They all act a little bit differently, he said, and have their own idiosyncrasies, and roll and little bit faster or slower.

His current plane he calls “Buttercup,” because it’s an “old horse but will get there eventually and do the job fine.”

Jones encouraged the students to have dreams and to set goals to reach them.

“If you can dream it, you can do it,” he told the students.

He encouraged them to set goals and then set intermediate goals.

It might take baby steps, he said, and there will be failures along the way, similar to those he had.

“But learn from those mistakes and become a better person,” he said. “Become the best person for the job.”

“Surround yourself with positive people,” said Jones, and avoid groups or individuals that bring you down.

“Do something bigger than your self,” he said. “Set goals, dream big ... and nothing will stop you.” 

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