Citadel grad joins The Thunderbirds


5-Year Member
Aug 23, 2016
Major Whit Collins '06 has joined The Thunderbirds as the new Opposing Solo Pilot. He has logged over 1200 flying hours including 150 combat hours and previously served as Chief of Training for the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Eglin AFB, Florida. Collins is the fourth Citadel graduate to be a pilot with the USAF Air Demonstration Team and the eighth to fly with the 2 military air demo teams, alumni have also served as Commander of both the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels.
Maj. Collins was in my son's deployed squadron at Bagram last Fall when he got the news that he had been chosen. It caused quite a bit of celebrating I hear.

Interesting, didn't realize pilots in test units could be deployed.
With the fighter pilot shortage, some units are not able to fill all of their pilot requirements for a deployment. They may have the numbers on paper, but it comes down to how many flight leads they have (wingmen cannot fly with another wingman, one has to be a flight lead) and how many IPs there are. The deploying squadrons are augmented by pilots pulled from other squadrons to fill out the correct numbers of each type. Sometimes they come from test or training squadrons and I believe that it is voluntary. When son's unit went I think they had pilots from 4 other bases. Son has gone to fill in a couple of times on other squadrons deployments as well.