The Daytona 500 took place on Sunday, Feb 26, and brought thousands of people to Daytona Beach. Though the roads were clogged and restaurants crowded, Embry-Riddle students were happy for the race-time crowds. Among the crowds were a group of extremely talented pilots, who make up part of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds.
The Thunderbirds are a United States Air Force Squadron that performs at airshows and events all around the country. Famously, they do the fly-over for the Daytona 500.
The Thunderbirds traditionally perform a flyover above the Daytona 500 at the end of the National Anthem.
The Thunderbirds flew into Daytona International Airport a few days before the race and perform practice maneuvers in the days before the race. These maneuvers were visible from campus, and many students observed them.
Some students specifically waited to see the Thunderbirds. “I waited for over an hour and a half on the roof of the AMS building for an excellent flyover, which I haven’t seen in over five years,” said Zachary Fedewa, a sophomore studying civil engineering.
“I saw the Thunderbirds practicing all week, and it gave me motivation to continue studying what I’m studying,” said Collin Anderson, a junior studying aerospace engineering.
Others were not expecting it when the F-16 flew over. The author of this article saw the Thunderbirds performing turns over the airport on Thursday, while she was near the Tomcat Annex.
Some students saw the Thunderbirds around the Daytona Beach area. “I actually saw the Thunderbirds flying around when I was driving to a restaurant. I was on International Speedway Blvd, and one of them banked in the air near my car. It was awesome,” said Andrew Bronshteyn, a sophomore studying aerospace engineering.
Devin Edwards, a sophomore studying civil engineering, said, “The first time I saw the Thunderbirds fly over, it was amazing and being able to take photos of it was even more so. It was an incredible experience.” One of the photos that Edwards took accompanies this article. This photo was taken from the roof of the Emil Buehler Aviation Maintenance Science Building.
“It was epic seeing them land on Saturday!” said Micah Knight, a senior studying aerospace engineering. “They fly over the airport and then come around and land nice and slow. It was awesome!”
“I saw the Thunderbirds at an airshow once… they were really cool! I was really happy to be able to see them practice from campus,” said Sariah Adviento, a sophomore studying aviation business administration.
The Thunderbirds are famous for their precision flying, performing in both four-ship Diamond maneuvers and solo flights, both of which showcase the power and the grace of the F-16.
“In a time of uncertainty in America, it was really amazing to see a symbol of our freedom fly in our nation’s skies,” said Henry Neiberlien, a junior studying commercial space operations. “Honestly, it was amazing.”
To learn more about the Thunderbirds and their mission, visit their website at http://afthunderbirds.com/site/.
To learn how to join the Air Force and potentially work with this squadron, visit an AFROTC officer on campus or https://www.airforce.com/.