The Thunderbirds’ Black Tail

Last but not least

What is the origin of the Thunderbirds’ Black Tail?

The Thunderbirds is the air demonstration squadron of the United States Air Force (USAF).

F-4E Phantom IIS

Still today, Thunderbirds carry the lineage, history, and honors of the 30th on active duty.
During the years, they have followed by these amazing airplanes:

J79 engines to its splendor ❤

At that time the engines were quite smoky, especially the F-4’s engine: the J79
By the years, the airflow through the combustors were redesigned to have more of a swirling action to better atomize the fuel.
That resulted in a much more complete fuel burn, since the smoke is actually soot from fuel that has been only partially burned before it leaves the engine, leaving back the typical black trails.

Steve Dwelle

In 1971 Steve Dwelle was a solo pilot for the “Thunderbirds” jet aerobatic team and several years as commanding officer of a Russian type fighter squadron in the Air Forces TOP GUN program called “Red Flag”.

“it started, to my knowledge, in the F-100 era where the slot pilot when he’s tucked into position his tail is right up in the exhaust of the leader of the leadership airplane.
Over the course of time crew chief had to keep wiping all this soot off the tail and wiping it off and… finally, they decided that:
heck, maybe they just leave it on there and see what happens!

So that’s what happened and it’s just carbon that’s coming out of the engine and sticking to the tail.
That’s why we affectionately referred to the slot pilot captain Tommy Gibbs, during my duration, as captain carbon”

F-4 Phantom II era

In the ’70s Thunderbirds flew with F-4E Phantom, and it was the only time the would fly jets similar to those of the Blue Angels. Did you know that it was the standard fighter for both services in the 1960s and 1970s?

Source: Blue Angel Phantoms
Photos By: United States Air Force