Miami man named Thunderbird crew chief


MIAMI – A man who grew up working in his father's hydraulic hose shop in Miami will soon become crew chief for one of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds jets.

Victor Cifuentes makes hydraulic hoses in his Miami shop. He used to do it with his son Gus.

"Right there, at the counter, he says, 'Daddy, I'm leaving. I'm going to the Air Force,'" said Cifuentes. "I said, 'What?'"

"It was a good learning experience then," said Air Force Staff Sergeant Gus Cifuentes.

Gus said he saw a Thunderbird as a child and decided as a college student he wanted to work on one.

"I was thinking in the back of my head, 'Hey, maybe I could become a Thunderbird,'" he said, "but I didn't even think I would have the opportunity to actually become one."

Gus said his experiences in his dad's shop put him on the Thunderbird's radar screen.

"Luckily, I have some friends that have joined the Thunderbirds and they might have asked them to see what type of person I was," he said.

The screening process took about a month. Finally, word came that Gus was selected as crew chief for one of the multi-million dollar F-16s.

"I'm always out there putting in extra time just to make sure the aircraft is safe for him to fly back because he as well has a family that he would like to come home to at night, same as me," said Gus.

"I'm very happy for him because he really loves that," said Victor. "What he's doing, he loves. He's the best guy in there."

Gus, his wife, and young son will soon leave Lajes Air Base in Portugal and travel to Nevada where the Thunderbirds train. He is set to report to the Thunderbirds in August.

Gus also plans on stopping in Miami.

"Sometimes, customers will come by and I'll be there helping him," Gus added. "It's just a good time spending time with my dad."

Victor plans on turning over his business to his son at some point.