The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, known worldwide for their precision aerobatics, will return to Daytona International Speedway to perform the flyover for the prestigious 56th annual Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season opener on Sunday, Feb. 23, according to a track release.
It’s the fourth consecutive year that the flying team, officially known as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, will be at the “World Center of Racing” to perform the flyover for “The Great American Race.” For the 2013 DAYTONA 500, the Thunderbirds were unable to fly their signature "Delta" formation flyover due to cloud ceilings below mandatory minimums.
The Thunderbirds also provided the flyover in 2008 for the 50th running of the Daytona 500.
The Thunderbirds flyover will feature six F-16 Fighting Falcons, the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter aircraft, soaring over the Speedway at the end of the national anthem.
“We’re deeply honored and privileged to have the USAF Thunderbirds return, and we’re looking forward to witnessing an exhilarating flyover during the pre-race ceremonies for the Daytona 500,” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said. “The sight and sound of the Thunderbirds flying above Daytona International Speedway will give goose bumps to the thousands of race fans in attendance and the millions more watching on FOX Sports.”
After the federal budget sequester took effect in the spring, the flying team was forced to cancel all but one of their 2013 performances. In October, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that the Thunderbirds will be back on the road next year.
“We are absolutely excited for another opportunity to showcase American air power at one of the signature events in our great country,” said Lt. Col. Greg Moseley, Thunderbirds commander and lead pilot. “The Daytona crowd is incredible, and we plan on giving them a flyover they deserve.”
Assigned to Air Combat Command, the squadron is composed of 12 officers and more than 100 enlisted Airmen serving in about 30 Air Force job specialties.
Since the unit's inception in 1953, more than 350 million people in all 50 states and more than 60 countries have witnessed the distinctive red, white and blue jets in thousands of official aerial demonstrations.