Best essay may win flight with Thunderbirds Published April 21, 2010 By SSgt Sherree Grebenstein 167AW Martinsburg, W.Va. -- Ever dream of flying with the United States Air Force Thunderbirds? You may get your chance at the upcoming Thunder Over the Blue Ridge Air Show which will be hosted by the 167th Airlift Wing during Labor Day Weekend 2010. The Thunderbirds and United States Army Parachute Team Golden Knights will headline the air show slated Sept. 4-5,2010. The Thunderbirds will host a "Hometown Heroes" orientation flight which will enable at least one lucky individual the opportunity to boast that they flew with the elite Air Force aerial team. An essay contest will be held to select the top five "Hometown Heroes" who may be eligible for the flight. Contestants vying for the honor of flying with the Thunderbirds may either nominate themselves or another worthy individual. Maj. Melissa Shade, public affairs officer for the 167th Airlift Wing, said Airmen may take part in the contest as long as the nomination has nothing to do with their military duty. The essay must be no more than 350 words long and explain why someone has made a difference in the community for the better. For example, an average citizen who has saved someone's life; a renowned teacher or mentor; a community humanitarian or an individual who has dedicated his or her life to working with at-risk children may all be strong contenders if nominated as a Hometown Hero. All essays must be submitted by May 1 to the 167th Airlift Wing's Public Affairs Office via email at 167AW.PA@ang.af.mil or fax them to 304-616-5111. A panel will be comprised to read the essays and determine the overall winner. Four people will be selected as runner ups who may also participate in flights if available. Submissions must include a phone number to contact in case of selection. According to the Thunderbirds' Public Affairs Office, the Hometown Heroes program "is designed to highlight someone from your local area who has given of themselves to better your community. A local hero will receive a one-hour Thunderbird orientation flight in one of the world's premiere fighter jets -the Lockheed Martin F-16D." In order to be considered for a flight with the Thunderbirds, an individual must not have vertigo; can be no taller than 6 feet 5 inches and must weigh between 103 to 245 pounds. Passengers must be at least 18 years old and no older than 55. They must also be able to speak and understand English. Other qualifying considerations include: chest size range, 34"-48"; maximum waist, 38"; and boot size range, 5-13 (men's sizes). The approved sitting height range is between 34-39.7 inches and the total height is between 64-77 inches. Those participating in the flights must also fill out a health questionnaire. The prestigious military aerial acts are expected to draw more than 80,000 visitors to the Martinsburg area for the two-day event which includes an open house on base. Various exhibits, vendors and sponsors of the event will also be on hand. The United Way of the Eastern Panhandle, will act as the fiscal agent for the show as well as receive proceeds from the event. For more information about the open house and air show please contact Maj. Shade or Staff Sgt. Sherree Grebenstein at 304-616-5023.