Thunderbirds Cancel Shows After Crash

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The Air Force Thunderbirds will not fly this week in Maryland or Kansas, and the Air Force said Tuesday the demonstration team's schedule for the remainder of the year was in question following a crash Sunday in Idaho.

"They are not performing on Sunday," Nellis Air Force base spokeswoman Linda Johnsrud said of the precision F-16 team's next scheduled public performance this weekend in Wichita, Kan.

A Thunderbirds performance scheduled Wednesday during a conference of allied air chiefs at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. also was canceled, and Johnsrud said no decision had been made about a scheduled Sept. 27-28 appearance in Janesville, Wisc.

"Nobody has gone beyond this week as far as making any decisions," she said.

The cancellations made it unclear whether the Thunderbirds would perform at a mid-November air show marking the team's 50th anniversary.

Capt. Chris R. Stricklin, 31, escaped serious injury Sunday when he ejected moments before the $23 million jet he was piloting hit the ground and exploded in a fireball before 85,000 spectators at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.

Maj. Gen. Steve Wood, commander of the Air Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base, said Monday that the Thunderbirds have not been grounded. But he said that until investigators determine the cause of the crash, he could not say whether they would perform at the "Aviation Nation" air show scheduled Nov. 15-16 at Nellis, north of Las Vegas.

"We hope to return to our demonstration schedule quickly once all safety issues have been addressed," Wood said.