Thunderbirds to salute USAFA graduates, Colorado front-line COVID-19 responders
NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” will honor Colorado’s front line COVID-19 responders with a series of community flyovers following the U.S. Air Force Academy’s commencement flyover on April 18, 2020.
A formation of eight F-16 Fighting Falcons flying out of Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada will recognize the U.S. Air Force Academy’s class of 2020 in Colorado Springs with a graduation flyover, celebrating the Air Force’s newest leaders as they graduate and prepare to begin their careers across the Air Force.
“The Thunderbirds are thrilled to continue on a tradition of culminating the Air Force Academy graduation and welcoming our newest second lieutenants into our Air Force,” said Lt. Col. John Caldwell, Thunderbirds commander and leader. “While the coronavirus pandemic has curtailed many of the celebrations that graduating cadets usually enjoy, we are proud to provide this one defining moment for these young American’s lives as they become officers in the world’s greatest Air Force.”
Following the ceremony, the Thunderbirds will conduct a series of flyovers across Colorado communities to honor healthcare workers, first responders, military members and other essential personnel who are working on the front lines to combat the coronavirus. The flyovers will start at approximately 12:50 MDT and last 60 minutes.
“Our team is honored to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the countless Coloradans working every day to support their communities during this difficult time in our nation,” said Caldwell. “We want Coloradans to look up from their homes and enjoy the display of American resolve and pride while keeping frontline responders in their hearts.”
Thunderbirds’ flight path will bring them over Greeley, Windsor, Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont, Boulder, Denver metropolitan area, Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Fort Carson and Pueblo. Residents along the flight path can expect a few seconds of jet noise as the aircraft pass overhead, along with the site of six high-performance fighter aircraft flying close in precise formation.
To complete this unique series of flyovers, the Thunderbirds will rely on aerial refueling support from a KC-135 tanker aircraft from McConnell Air Force Base and March Air Reserve Base extending their range for the duration of the mission.
“Just like in combat operations across the globe, the Thunderbirds rely on tanker support to expand our reach and flexibility to conduct complex operations like this,” said Caldwell. “It’s a team effort that truly represents the pride, precision and professionalism of the 685,000 total force Airmen of the U.S. Air Force.”
Residents in these areas will be able to see the flyover from the safety of their home-quarantine and should maintain all social distancing guidelines during this event. They should also refrain from traveling to landmarks, hospitals and gathering in large groups to view the flyover.
The Thunderbirds welcome and encourage viewers to tag the team on social media in photos and videos of their formation with the hashtag #AFThunderbirds and #AFSalutes.
For more information on the team visit www.afthunderbirds.com and follow @afthunderbirds on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.