Air Force Academy graduates, Friends of USAFA, rally to support Class of 2013, their families

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  • By 030513
Historic World War II aircraft retake to the skies of Colorado Springs May 27-29, to perform flyovers for the graduation events of the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2013.

Traditionally, the Air Force Academy's graduation ceremony flyover is conducted by the Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team, while other Air Force aircraft perform flyovers of graduation parade events, utilizing training funds to combine the demonstration of the U.S. Air Force's aerial prowess while using training flights to maintain aircrew proficiency.

Sadly, the traditional flyovers for Air Force Academy graduation and graduation week events by Air Force aircraft have been cancelled, in keeping with the stand-downs and cancellations of nearly 2,500 event around the world since March. This includes the Thunderbirds' appearance in Colorado Springs.

To fill that void, several aviation organizations are volunteering their services, at no cost to the government, to provide flyovers for Air Force Academy graduation events. Each of these groups came to USAFA to volunteer their services to help showcase what the more than 1,000 new Air Force lieutenants represent.

"These veteran Airmen have stepped forward to provide a great send-off for the thousand-plus graduates of our Class of 2013," said Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, Academy Superintendent. "Their appearance over our graduation events will tie our future Air Force leaders with our proud and storied aviation heritage. Every American should be proud of the philanthropic support provided by all our volunteer aviators. They understand the nature of our national budget challenges and are showing their patriotic spirit by selflessly providing these meaningful tributes to AF Academy graduates."

The Pikes Peak region has a strong background with military aviation, dating back to World War II when fighter and bomber aircrews trained at Peterson Field in what is now Colorado Springs and Pueblo Army Air Base, in Pueblo. Now, both of those airfields host aviation museums and civilian airports., and the museum in Colorado Springs will again be an airbase to project World War II airpower.

The National Museum of World War II Aviation in Colorado Springs will be that host. The museum is home station to the B-25 Mitchell bomber which will support the Air Force Academy graduation events, and also support airshows around the country. The museum's tarmac will get a little more crowded this weekend, when the Texas Flying Legends and Commemorative Air Force deploy their aircraft to Colorado Springs, to support the Air Force Academy.

The bulk of the aircraft are being flown to Colorado Springs from the Texas Flying Legends Museum, based out of Ellington Field, Texas. Support for these flyovers is also being provided by the Texas Flying Legends, Commemorative Air Force and the National Museum of World War II Aviation.

The current schedule of practices, subject to weather conditions, is as follows:

Sunday, May 26:
· Flyover practice of four privately-owned T-33A Shooting Star trainer aircraft, over the Air Force Academy's Stillman Parade Field, noon to 1 p.m.

Monday, May 27:
· Organizational Awards Parade at the Air Force Academy's Stillman Parade Field, featuring a flyover of four privately-owned T-33A Shooting Star trainer aircraft, at approximately 10:10 a.m.
· Primary hat toss run-in practice (weather depending) for Texas Flying Legends aircraft 4-5 p.m. over Falcon Stadium. This event includes five aircraft: a B-25J Mitchell bomber, two P-51D Mustang fighters, a TBM3E Avenger torpedo bomber and an FM2 Wildcat fighter.
· Possible practice for Commemorative Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress bomber and four P-51D Mustang fighters over USAFA Stillman Parade Field, approximately 1 p.m.

Tuesday, May 28:
· Backup practice for Texas Flying Legends from 6:30-7:30 a.m.
· Graduation Parade flyover of Commemorative Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress bomber and four P-51D Mustang fighters at 10:12 a.m.

Wednesday, May 29:
· Graduation hat toss flyover over at Falcon Stadium by the Texas Flying Legends at approximately 12:30 p.m.
· These aircraft will perform several passes for about five minutes.
· Then a single pass of National Museum of World War II Aviation's B-25J Mitchell bomber will conclude the day's aerial demonstration of vintage World War II aircraft.