173rd FW Instructor Pilot selected as newest Thunderbird demo pilot

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

The United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, known as the “Thunderbirds”, recently announced the latest addition to their team for the 2024-2025 season, and at the top of the list was Maj. Tyler Clark, a 173rd Fighter Wing Instructor Pilot and Chief of Scheduling. 

Clark is the first Air National Guard fighter pilot selected to be a Thunderbird demonstration pilot.

“Being a Guardsman is an opportunity to represent the Total Force and the ‘Land of No Slack’,” says Clark.   “I am extremely thankful for the 173rd Fighter Wing and my leadership who enabled me to pursue this opportunity.”

‘Land of No Slack’ is the nickname given to the 173rd FW, which Clark has been a member of since early 2022.  Clark says his time flying at Kingsley Field will help him fulfill his mission as a future Thunderbird pilot. 

“The ‘Land of No Slack’ creates top-notch fighter wingmen who earn the coveted ‘Eagle Driver’ patch,” says Clark.  “With that comes a tremendous responsibility to maintain and constantly demonstrate a dedication to our mission and students…but it also extends well beyond the cockpit.  We must possess an ability to build a rapport and connect with the student across the table.” 

Clark started his career in the Air Force Academy, graduating in 2009.  He went on to flight school, ending up at Kingsley Field as a student pilot where he learned to be an Eagle Driver.  His time in Active Duty took him all over the world, serving in multiple leadership roles.  In 2022 he decided to leave Active Duty and join the Air National Guard returning to Kingsley Field as Instructor Pilot.

“I look at the Thunderbirds as a unique opportunity to fulfill my dreams and passion for motivating others while getting to fly high-performance jets in airshows across the United States,” says Clark.  “It’s really a fusion of everything I love!”

That passion started at a young age. “Going to airshows growing up sparked an interest in aviation that later led to fighter aviation,” he says.  “Every year my family took me to see the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels.  That always left me with a huge ‘WOW!’ factor and were always exciting to watch.”

He adds that his passion in life to have a positive impact on those around him.

“I’m really looking forward to interacting with the public, having a positive impact on communities, and inspiring that young kid…who used to be me!” Clark says.

The path to Clark’s selection wasn’t direct.  In fact, the first time he applied, he was not selected.  “I don’t like taking ‘no” for an answer, so I continued pursing my dream!!” Clark says with a laugh. 

Seeing that dream realized wouldn’t have happened without support all around.

“I thank God for my amazing wife who’s always pushed me to pursue this dream, she’s my rock and a truly inspiring woman who’s a critical part of this story,” said Clark.    “I’m incredibly grateful for my family, friends, mentors, and leadership at Kingsley Field for helping me achieve something I thought would be unattainable.”

Clark is not the first Team Kingsley member to be a part of the Thunderbirds.  In 1999, Tech. Sgt. Kim Long, a 173rd Fighter Wing F-16 crew chief, was selected to be a member of the maintenance team for the Thunderbirds, serving with them until 2002.