Lt Col Jason Heard was relieved of his command on November 20 by 57th Wing commander Brig Gen Jeannie Leavitt due to a loss of confidence in the Thunderbirds 1 pilot’s “leadership and risk management style”.
“This was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but one that is ultimately in the best interests of the Thunderbird team,” Brig Gen Jeannie Leavitt said in a statement.
“I am personally grateful for Jason’s dedication to the 2017 season.”
Lt Col Heard led the Thunderbirds throughout its 2017 season. The team flew 70 displays in 2017, a year marked by the loss of an F-16 during a familarisation flight in June.
The two-seat F-16D over-ran a wet runway while landing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, before overturning. The pilot and his maintenance technician passenger suffered minor injuries, but the aircraft was written off.
Lt Col Heard has more than 3,000 flight hours and 800 hours on combat operations. He is a former F-15 squadron commander.
Steer your own in-flight experience – available on print and digital Whether our classic glossy magazine in your letterbox, daily news updates in your inbox, peeling back a few layers in the podcast or our monthly current affair reports, you can count on us to keep you up to date. Sign up today for just $99.95 for more exclusive offers here. Subscribe now at australianaviation.com.au.