Lake Tahoe surgeon, Army veteran flies with U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
Before becoming a highly esteemed orthopedic surgeon in Tahoe, Kyle Swanson was saving lives in Afghanistan.
The Army veteran performed surgeries on fellow soldiers and Afghan civilians injured during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Fore those efforts and more, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds honored Swanson as a “hometown hero” during the Minden Airshow earlier this month. As part of the recognition, Swanson was rewarded with a practice ride in an F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Swanson is now an orthopedic surgeon with Barton’s Tahoe Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Carson City and Lake Tahoe.
Prior to his takeoff, he participated in four hours of trainings and simulations. This included practicing special breathing techniques and rehearsing what to do in an emergency. As part of the preparation, Swanson was also fitted into a tailored flight suit designed to adapt to the changing pressure and tricky demonstrations.
The practice ride took off from Minden-Tahoe Airport and lasted 60 minutes. In a flight debrief, the pilot Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh thanked Dr. Swanson for his service and said it was one of his top five most amazing fights.
“I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this recognition,” Walsh said in a statement. “It is an honor to award this to someone who has served on active duty and helped so many people.”
The flight debrief included details about the flight, which Walsh described as a “maximum flight” with “maximum turns.” In one instance, the pair completed 9.3 rotations.
Swanson is one of 38 civilians selected this year as a “hometown hero.” Heroes are selected from around the world with usually one hero and one flight chosen per airshow.