The people gathered, all very excited to see the U.S. Air Forces’ Thunderbird flying team. Half the crowds were civilians, the remainder in uniform.
The aircrafts, Northrop T-38A Talons, streaked and roared over head to shouts and cheers, as they flew in groups, bursting like a smoky flower high in the sky. Then they flew headlong at one another, a game of chicken at near the speed of sound.
On perhaps the fourth pass, disaster occurred as two of the crafts touched wing to tail. While the pilot who sustained the rudder damage managed to make it to an airport safely, the other pilot lost part of his damaged wing.
Witnesses could see the pilot was fighting his aircraft as hard as he could to bring it upright and to pull it away from the crowds and the close-by base housing. The craft screamed sideways, passing overhead, spewing smoke and debris.
The pilot, Capt. Charlie Carter blew his canopy and punched out as the dying aircraft drew tight to the earth. However his plane rolled over on its back and Carter ejected head first into a parking lot of the rodeo grounds.
The charred and torn tail-section of Carter’s aircraft used to sit in a storage area on the backside of the air force base, well hidden from the publics view.