Thunderbirds commander relieved from duty

Nov 30, 2017
Lt. Col. Jason Heard landing at Air Tattoo 2017.

Lt. Col. Jason Heard, commander of the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds was removed from the position by Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, the commander of the Air Force’s 57th Wing, after the Thunderbirds season ended on November 20.

According to an Air Force press release, Heard lead the Thunderbirds "through a highly successful show season," but Brig. General Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing Commander, "lost confidence in his leadership and risk management style."

Lt. Col. Jason Heard took command of the Thunderbirds and became the 35th Commander/Leader of the Squadron on Jan 7, 2017. And so less then a year he was relieved from duty. This is the first Thunderbirds commander ever relieved from duty.

The decision to relieve Heard is unrelated to the Dayton incident in June, when squadron's #8 F-16D jet skidded off the runway during landing and flipped on its top, trapping two people inside the cockpit. Then the pilot Capt. Erik Gonsalves, landed his aircraft on wet runway about 29 mph above the touchdown speed, causing an overrun.

Lt. Col. Jason Heard lead the Thunderbirds during their Europe visit at Air Tattoo 2017. Lt. Col. Jason Heard. Photo USAF