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NEWS | Aug. 4, 2023

Oregon Air National Guard Pilot to fly with Thunderbirds

By Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar, 173rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. - Maj. Tyler Clark, a 173rd Fighter Wing instructor pilot and chief of scheduling, is the first Air National Guard fighter pilot chosen to be a Thunderbird demonstration pilot.

The United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, known as the Thunderbirds, recently announced the 2024-2025 season team.

“Being a Guardsman is an opportunity to represent the Total Force and the ‘Land of No Slack,’” Clark said. “I am extremely thankful for the 173rd Fighter Wing and my leadership who enabled me to pursue this opportunity.”

‘Land of No Slack’ is the nickname given to the Oregon Air National Guard 173rd FW, which Clark has been a member of since early 2022. Clark says his time flying at Kingsley Field will help him fulfill his mission as a Thunderbird pilot.

“The ‘Land of No Slack’ creates top-notch fighter wingmen who earn the coveted ‘Eagle Driver’ patch,” says Clark. “With that comes a tremendous responsibility to maintain and constantly demonstrate a dedication to our mission and students. … But it also extends well beyond the cockpit. We must possess an ability to build a rapport and connect with the student across the table.”

Clark graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2009 and went to flight school, ending up at Kingsley Field as a student pilot, where he learned to be an Eagle Driver. His time in active duty took him all over the world, serving in multiple leadership roles. In 2022, he left active duty and joined the Air National Guard, returning to Kingsley Field as an instructor pilot.

“I look at the Thunderbirds as a unique opportunity to fulfill my dreams and passion for motivating others while getting to fly high-performance jets in airshows across the United States,” Clark said. “It’s really a fusion of everything I love.”

That passion started at a young age. “Going to airshows growing up sparked an interest in aviation that later led to fighter aviation,” he said. “Every year, my family took me to see the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels.

“I’m really looking forward to interacting with the public, having a positive impact on communities, and inspiring that young kid … who used to be me,” he said.

Seeing that dream realized wouldn’t have happened without support.

“I thank God for my amazing wife, who’s always pushed me to pursue this dream,” he said. “She’s my rock and a truly inspiring woman who’s a critical part of this story. I’m incredibly grateful for my family, friends, mentors and leadership at Kingsley Field for helping me achieve something I thought would be unattainable.”

Clark is not the first Team Kingsley member to be a part of the Thunderbirds. In 1999, Tech. Sgt. Kim Long, a 173rd Fighter Wing F-16 crew chief, was selected to be a member of the maintenance team for the Thunderbirds, serving with them until 2002.

 

 

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