Original Thunderbird Jack Moran remembers the group’s beginning

Original Thunderbird Jack Moran remembers the group’s beginning


Mississippi Power employees and customers may remember retiree Jack Moran for the 35 years of dedication he gave to the company as a lineman.

He is also the father of Cary Moran, who currently works at Mississippi Power as a line construction and maintenance supervisor.

But you may not know that Moran had a colorful military career before he came to Mississippi Power, serving as group operations officer for the original U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aerial flight demonstration team.

The group was formed in 1953 in part by Major Dick Catledge, the man who just happened to be Moran’s commanding officer at the time.

“I joined the Air Force in 1951 as a typist because I took typing in high school,” Moran said. “I was stationed in San Antonio as a staff sergeant when Major Catledge said he had been asked to be the commanding officer of a new unit. He asked me if I wanted to go with him to work on it. I asked what we would be doing, and he told me I’d find out when we got there.”

So Moran was off to Luke Air Force base in Glendale, Ariz., with 29 others to get the squadron up and running.

“I worked on the team’s travel orders, we got the airplanes painted, and I even got the team’s first flight suits at a local J.C. Penney’s department store. I got everybody’s sizes, bought the suits, and took them to the base laundry to have the patches and names sewn on.”

From there, one of the most recognized air squadron’s was born.

“I was 23 years old, so it was a lot of fun,” Moran recalled. “Two of the original four pilots were twins. Imagine that. Only 10 of the original 29 are still alive today.”

With any new undertaking, there’s bound to be some dicey moments, and Moran says he saw a few of those during his time with the Thunderbirds.

“I was always interested in flying,” he said. “I got to go on numerous missions across the country and overseas. On one trip, the team was set to perform in Guatemala and I was on the support plane with several others. The plane developed engine trouble over a third-world country and we had to make an emergency landing on a small runway in the jungle. After that, I always made sure I was wearing my parachute. Even though it was awkward at first, we ended up staying the night there and the locals got us groceries.

“There was another time when the public affairs officer decided to take the president of a small country up in his jet for a ride. The problem was everyone in town was lined up on the runway to watch. Our guy asked the president what he wanted to do and the president said ‘take off’! The crowd loved it.”

Anecdotes aside, Moran says it was an honor to be part of the original Thunderbirds team and even at 85 years old, he’s still heavily involved in the Thunderbirds Alumni Association.

“I only had two jobs in my life,” Moran added. “Being in the Air Force and working with the Thunderbirds, and being at Mississippi Power. I loved them both.”