(U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo.) — The U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) Thunderbirds’ practice schedule ahead of the academy’s graduation ceremony flyover has been announced, along with a world-renowned Olympic champion who will fly with them.
Olympic gold medalist speed skater Apolo Ohno will fly with the Thunderbirds on Wednesday, May 31 over Colorado Springs.
Ohno is the most decorated American to compete in the Winter Olympics. In three games (2002, 2006, and 2010) he accumulated eight medals – two gold, two silver, and four bronze. In 2017, Ohno was inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame, and two years later he was inducted into the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame.
USAFA began inviting a stand-out Olympian for a Thunderbird graduation flight in 2019, with Mikaela Shiffrin. According to USAFA, the new tradition “reinforces the collaborative relationship between the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Museum while highlighting Colorado Springs’ Olympic City USA brand.”
In addition to the announcement of the Olympic guest, the Thunderbirds practice schedule has been announced. The Thunderbirds are scheduled to arrive in the Springs on Tuesday, May 30, and conduct a survey flight from approximately 12:20 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. before landing at Peterson Space Force Base.
The practice flight on Wednesday, with Apolo Ohno aboard, will occur mid-morning, originating from Peterson.
Then, on Thursday, the Thunderbirds will conclude the Class of 2023 Graduation Ceremony with a 30-minute performance over Falcon Stadium from 12:30 p.m. – 1 p.m.
Road closures under the show area will be in effect at the Academy during the performance, and along the Santa Fe Trail:
- Wednesday – approximately 10:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 2:15 to 3:30 p.m.
- Thursday – 9 a.m. to approximately 2:30 p.m.
- Stadium Boulevard – Pine Drive to North Gate Blvd
- Community Center Drive – Stadium Blvd. to E. Douglass Drive
- Academy Drive – Stadium Blvd. to Lot 6
- Santa Fe Trail from Tri-intersection Bridge to Parade Loop
For public safety, drivers are reminded not to stop along I-25 or any roads on the Academy to watch the Thunderbird performances.