Why Is the Thunderbird an Important Symbol in the World of Aviation?

If you’re going through flight training in Dayton, OH, you might have noticed the prevalence of the thunderbird image in aviation. The thunderbird is a part of Native American mythology across several tribes in varying regions, including the Sioux, Wichita and Salish: the huge bird flies across the sky, sometimes carrying a whale in its talons, can shoot lightning out of its eyes and is responsible for the sound of thunder. The thunderbird is particularly common in Pacific Northwest tribes, but its legend is found in tribes across the entire United States.

In addition to being a sacred part of indigenous folklore, the thunderbird was adopted as the United States Air Force’s stunt squad’s name in 1953, and has long been a popular symbol in the aviation sector. Here’s why:

  • A symbol separating the sky and land: The thunderbird’s home is in the sky, halfway between heaven and earth. Native American tribes respect the thunderbird for its control over the skies and earth, and some believed that the thunderbird must be appeased and honored. In our modern world, the airplane is one of the fastest, most powerful means of travel, as well as a military weapon and tool—a fitting tribute to the mythical thunderbird.
  • A symbol of strength: Similarly, the thunderbird is depicted as a powerful, strong creature that can live on land like a human, but when it takes off its mask, it takes to the sky. This is analogous to pilots (commercial, private and military alike) who need to embody strength, focus and dedication to guide a successful flight. The thunderbird is a powerful reminder of what it takes to fly, as well as providing inspiration to aspiring and current pilots.
  • A symbol of speed and agility: Finally, the thunderbird is regarded as a strong, powerful and fast creature who controls the heavens. They can create thunder and lightning and cover large distances in the blink of an eye, much like the military jets named after them. In fact, the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbird squad performs stunts at speeds ranging from 450 to 700 miles per hour, topping out just under the speed of sound. The next time you hear the roar of a fighter jet, think about the mythology behind the name—it’s a fitting tribute to a fascinating piece of American tradition and history.

Have you been inspired by the legend of the thunderbird and want to pursue flight training in Dayton, OH? First Flight Aviation is a fixed base operator at the Dayton-Wright Brothers airport, partnering with Sinclair College to offer flight lessons. Whether you’re an aircraft owner who needs FBO services or are interested in becoming an aviation professional, we can help.

First Flight Aviation is a fixed base operator in Dayton, OH offering repair, maintenance and line services, and we can service any type of aircraft you bring us. We also offer a passenger lobby, full-service pilot’s lounge and our own sheet metal shop on the premises. Call us today to learn more.

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