Never in a million years did Maj. Whit Collins think he'd be a Thunderbird.

An Air Force brat, Collins says his dad "never pushed" the Air Force on him.  He says it was a chance meeting with a Thunderbird as a kid that made him want to join and subsequently try out for the team.​​

"It happened between '94 and '96 because we were living at Warner Robins, Georgia at the time," said Collins.

"They had an air show at the base and I went to it," he added.  "Afterwards, they had a little reception and I met him kind of coming out of the bathroom and he dropped on a knee, looked me right in my eyes and told me I could be a great pilot if I wanted to be."

The encounter stuck with Collins, and now roughly 25 years later he's the slot pilot for the Thunderbirds, flying the No. 4 jet.

"I love going out there, meeting kids and telling them, 'Hey, you can grow up to be whatever you want to be,'" said Collins.  "If you want to be a Thunderbird that's really awesome, but even if you don't ... you owe it to yourself to go out there and chase your dreams."


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