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Why is Thunderbird 5's number written upside down?

Thunderbird 5

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    $\begingroup$ So it's right side up when doing inverted manoeuvres? $\endgroup$ – Greg Hewgill May 21 '14 at 2:18
  • $\begingroup$ @GregHewgill turns out you are correct :) $\endgroup$ – flyingfisch May 21 '14 at 2:21
  • $\begingroup$ Good question and nice catch. $\endgroup$ – CGCampbell May 21 '14 at 2:25
  • $\begingroup$ @CGCampbell thanks :) What would also be cool to know is if number 5's engine number has always been upside down, or only since the Thunderbirds got the F-16's $\endgroup$ – flyingfisch May 21 '14 at 2:26
  • $\begingroup$ @CGCampbell Updated my answer, though I am not sure why the older Thunderbird 5's had the number right side up. should I make a new question about that? $\endgroup$ – flyingfisch May 21 '14 at 2:36
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This is because Thunderbird 5 is the opposing solo, and spends almost all of its time inverted.

thunderbird5 thunderbird5

Apparently though, this plane's number was not always painted upside down:

t38s f4s

Just guesswork on my part, but maybe the Thunderbirds did not fly inverted maneuvers before the F-16s?

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  • $\begingroup$ According to burrusspta.org/video_files/thunderbirds.html they did use inverted formations at least as far back as 1964 in the F-105's. $\endgroup$ – CGCampbell May 21 '14 at 2:53
  • $\begingroup$ also, I have no problem at all if you want to unselect my answer and select your own. You've got the more research effort showing. $\endgroup$ – CGCampbell May 21 '14 at 2:55
  • $\begingroup$ @CGCampbell oh ok, then I guess I will. ;-) $\endgroup$ – flyingfisch May 21 '14 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ @CGCampbell they did, but older types were less suitable for SUSTAINED inverted flight, so they'd spend the majority of their display sequence "right side up". $\endgroup$ – jwenting May 23 '14 at 13:38
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The #5 is painted upside down because it represents how the lead solo spends most of his time during an aerial demonstration. Dennis Graham USAF "Thunderbirds" Alumni 1985-1989.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Av.SE -- It's always good to have folks on here who've been part of teams like the Thunderbirds. This answer is fine, although it doesn't really add anything to the existing answers; if your future answers can offer more than what's already present, that would be great. Again, welcome to Av.SE, and please do come back often! $\endgroup$ – Ralph J May 13 at 18:24
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Just for clarification sake, Thunderbird 5 is the LEAD solo, not the Opposing Solo. Opposing Solo is Thunderbird 6. The 5 is upside-down because During the show he spends the most time upside-down. On crowd passes, and show center, he is usually inverted. Also, the F-4 Phantom and T-38 Talon fly perfectly well inverted.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for clarifying the facts! Based on their site and this video I'd say you are correct. $\endgroup$ – fooot Apr 21 '15 at 18:53
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When the Thunderbird's fly the reflection pattern, one plane will be right side up flying level. Number 5 will be upside down and below the first one. They are like reflections in a mirror, bottom to bottom. Number 5's engine number is written upside down, so that it can be read correctly. If they fly the calypso pattern, where one plane is flying right side up and the second will be above it, upside down, the upside down plane will always be number 5.

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