DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will perform the flyover for the 62nd annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 16 at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
The flyover will mark the 10th consecutive year, and 11th total, that the Thunderbirds – officially known as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron – will showcase their world-class talent and precise choreography by flying their signature “Delta” formation over the 2.5-mile oval at the end of the national anthem for “The Great American Race.”
“We’re honored to have the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds be a part of the DAYTONA 500 pre-race ceremonies,” Daytona Int’l Speedway President Chip Wile said. “For both the thousands of fans in attendance and the millions more watching on television, the sight of the USAF Thunderbirds soaring over the race track at the end of the National Anthem is one of the most exhilarating and treasured moments of the Daytona 500 experience.”
“We’re excited to open our 2020 demonstration season with NASCAR race fans at the Daytona 500,” added Lt. Col. John Caldwell, Thunderbird commander and lead pilot. “We look forward to showcasing the pride, precision and professionalism the 685,000 total force Airmen of the U.S. Air Force employ every day around the world.”
The Thunderbirds feature six F-16 Fighting Falcons, the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter aircraft. Assigned to Air Combat Command, the squadron is composed of 12 officers and more than 120 enlisted personnel serving in nearly 30 Air Force job specialties.
They have a rigorous schedule, performing hour-long demonstrations across the United States nearly 35 weekends between March and November.
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.
The flight demonstration team is made up of Lt. Col. John Caldwell, Thunderbird No. 1, Thunderbird commander and lead pilot; Maj. Trevor Aldridge, Thunderbird No. 2, Left Wing pilot; Capt. Michael Brewer, Thunderbird No. 3, Right Wing pilot; Capt. Zane Taylor, Thunderbird No. 4, Slot Pilot; Maj. Michelle Curran, Thunderbird No. 5, Lead Solo; and Capt. Kyle Oliver, Thunderbird No. 6, Opposing Solo.
Three of the members of the team have strong Florida ties. Both Caldwell and Taylor are natives of Orlando and Brewer is a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which is next door to Daytona Int’l Speedway.