Elite female pilot performing in Punta Gorda at international air show

You may hear the roar of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds flying through the sky over Southwest Florida Thursday night.

The elite group of U.S. Air Force pilots is in the area to perform at the 2019 Florida International Air Show at Punta Gorda Airport this weekend, Friday through Sunday.

The U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds are the highlight of this year’s air show. And we got to speak to one of the pilots, who is inspiring others nationwide.

“It’s exciting. It takes a lot of concentration and focus,” said Maj. Michelle Curran, a Thunderbirds pilot. “Our whole goal is to recruit retain and inspire.”

WINK News Reporter Dannielle Garcia speaks to Maj. Michelle Curran of the USAF Thunderbirds. Credit: WINK News.

Curran is the only female Thunderbirds pilot currently. And she is the fifth female Thunderbird in the group’s history.

“The reason I paid for the team is because it’s not a lot of women flying fighters,” Curran said. “And it kind of gave me a unique platform to inspire those little girls that maybe, ‘I’ve never seen someone who looks like I’m doing this.’”

Curran said she has always been a thrill-seeker, and that brought her to the air force.

“So we’re limited by we can’t break the speed of sound,” Curran said. “We can’t create a sonic boom, and that would break people’s windows. So we would get in trouble. So in order to stay under, that we’re at the fastest in the 650-600 miles an hour.”

Tickets for the air show are $20 online and $30 at the event. For more information, visit the 2019 Florida International Air Show’s website.

Organizers expect 45,000 spectators to visit the air show this weekend, so it’s recommended to arrive early for parking.

Curran loves to inspire, and she also loves to hear from young people about their own aspirations in relation to her job with the Thunderbirds.

“There was a little girl one day at one show that told me she was going to take my job, which was awesome,” Curran said.

Reporter:Dannielle Garcia
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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