Look up in the sky over Mankato for the next few days and you may see a bird and a plane – all in one.
The U.S. Air Force's Thunderbirds are in town and will be making some practice flights in advance of this weekend's Minnesota Air Spectacular.
The demonstration team arrived Tuesday from Dayton, Ohio, where they flew this past weekend.
Maj. Curtis Dougherty told the Mankato Free Press the level of the clouds on Saturday will determine whether the Thunderbirds perform their "high" show, their "low" show, or the "flat" show.
The Free Press notes that the team last flew over Mankato in 2003, which was before the runway at the city's airport was extended to 6,600 feet.
The difference is significant because it allows the F-16s to take off and land right there in Mankato. That means instead of flying off after their show to land at a distant airport, the eight pilots will have a chance to meet their Mankato fans.
Maj. Joshua Boudreaux, another of the pilots, tells KEYC his favorite part of being one of the Thunderbirds is getting to meet the public and help connect the military with civilians.
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Rubbing elbows with the public also helps the aviators fulfill the recruiting mission, which is part of the purpose of the team known as "America's Ambassadors in Blue."
Boudreaux tells KEYC the Thunderbirds perform at about 70 shows between March and November, showing off planes that reach speeds up to Mach 2.
This year's schedule also includes a stop in La Crosse on Aug. 8 and 9.
The Army's Golden Knights Parachute Team is among the others who will perform Saturday and Sunday at the Mankato Regional Airport, where the gates open at 9 a.m.