As thrilling as the flight is, one member of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds admitted it pales in comparison to one aspect of her job.
"Meeting the kids. How they react to us. Hearing them say they want to be you or just like you when they grow up. That's the best part of it for me," U.S. Air Force Maj. Caroline Jensen said Tuesday.
Jensen, 38, is the right wing pilot for the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, flying the No. 3 jet. She and several of her colleagues soared into the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna on Tuesday for a preview demonstration of this weekend's Thunder Over the Valley 2014.
Thunderbirds are lined up Tuesday afternoon on the tarmac at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Vienna.
The air show is the area's first since 2009 and the only regional stop scheduled for the Thunderbirds this season.
Youngstown Air Reserve Station officials said area residents can expect to hear some of the show for miles.
On Tuesday, the squadron proved that point when the unit made a grand roaring entrance - spinning and twisting across the sky and causing the earth to shake as each aircraft soared and circled above the station. The jets rolled like thunder across the sky.
At times two of them met and crossed each other's paths in flight. Jensen said attendees can expect to see six pilots on the team flying this weekend.
"It's a great demonstration. One of the great things is that it really is a recruiting tool for us. It sparks an interest in young people in the military, not only the Air Force but also other branches. It opens up choices and possible opportunities for them," she said.
Jensen explained that attending an air show in her home state of Wisconsin with her father when she was 13 sparked her interest in being a pilot.
"I went to that show with my dad and I knew that's what I wanted to do. I can see that happening with other kids," she said.
When they come into an area team members typically spend part of their week visiting schools.
Jensen, a native of River Falls, Wis., said the first woman to join the team became a member in 2006. Jensen is the third woman to join the elite unit, stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nev., since it was activated in 1953. She entered the Air Force in 1998 as a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Before joining the Thunderbirds, she served as a T-38 instructor pilot and assistant flight commander for Air Force Reserve Command's 340th Flying Training Group, 80th Flying Training Wing, at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.
She has logged more than 3,100 flight hours as an Air Force pilot, with 200 hours of combat experience in the F16C. It is her third season with the team.
Jensen, who has a 5-year-old son, said that not only does she hope to be a role model for girls by inspiring them, but also for boys by encouraging them not to place limitations on their female counterparts.
"I like to tell the kids we meet, who come and see us, that whatever their dream is they should follow that. There are opportunities out there for them. Just reach for your own dream. This was mine and here I am," she said.