Discovering Shaba with Captain Thad Darger

The Air Zoo is excited to welcome a very special guest for a Discovery Series event this Saturday evening. Former F-117 Nighthawk pilot, Captain Thad Darger, will be reunited with the recently completed F-117 Nighthawk (tail number 817), Shaba, and will share his exciting journey with the 8th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Wing, of Holloman Air Force Base. Captain Darger was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism while flying in the stealth aircraft displayed at the Air Zoo’s Flight Discovery Center 

Join Air Zoo staff, trustees, restoration program donors and volunteers as they celebrate the completion of the F-117 Nighthawk (817), on Saturday, July 30 at 6:30pm, doors open at 6pm. The evening will include Darger’s intimate account of piloting Shaba during Operation Allied Force, aircraft tours, a meet and greet with Captain Darger and members of the Air Zoo Restoration Team, light snacks and a cash bar. Seats are limited and tickets are just $10/person.  Tickets and information available here.

About Thad Darger 

Thad Darger is a native of Sioux Falls, SD who attended the United States Air Force Academy prior to serving on active duty as an Air Force pilot for over eleven years.  Thad accumulated almost 3,000 flight hours in the T-38, B-1, and F-117 Stealth Fighter.  Thad flew multiple combat missions over Yugoslavia in the Stealth Fighter in 1999 during Operation Allied Force, attacking multiple strategic targets during the conflict.  Following his Air Force career, Thad was a United Airlines Pilot and for the past twenty years has been involved in sales leadership for a variety of medical device companies.  

Thad has been married for over thirty-one years to his wife, Danyel, and they have four children including a daughter that currently serves as an Instructor Pilot in the C-17 Globemaster in Charleston, SC.  Thad and Danyel have lived in Central Massachusetts for the past eighteen years.  

Thad’s various Air Force decorations include, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Aerial Achievement Medal, and Air Force Commendation Medal. 

About F-117 Nighthawk (tail number 817), Shaba 

Nicknamed Shaba, the Arabic word for phantom, this F-117 is the first on public display at a non-military museum. As one of the Air Zoo’s combat veterans, our F-117 participated in operations Just Cause, Desert Storm, and Allied Force. Shaba took part in a total of 59 missions and logged 5,038.30 hours of total flight time before retiring from service.  

The highly decorated Shaba (tail number 817) was transported on two trucks across the country. The Air Zoo’s Restoration Team has invested more than 8,300 hours, reuniting wings and tail fins, recreating the aircraft’s leading edges, priming, painting, detailing, and adding the finishing touches for her display at the Flight Discovery Center.  

About the Air Zoo 

Located at 6151 Portage Rd., Portage, MI 49002, the Air Zoo is a Smithsonian-affiliated aerospace & science experience with over 100 rare air & space craft, inspiring interactive exhibits, indoor amusement park rides, full-motion flight simulators, hands-on science-based education programs, and more.  The Air Zoo is a not-for-profit organization and is open 360+ days per year. For hours, tickets, safety policies and procedures as well as temporarily altered experiences due to COVID-19, visit 



Posted by Nikki Statler at 5:23 PM
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