ATLANTA — Kick-off of Super Bowl LIII between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams will begin in high fashion next Sunday with an Air Force Thunderbirds flyover.
The Air Combat Command made the official announcement on Wednesday following several meetings with both NFL officials and the Super Bowl host committee. The 53rd Super Bowl will take center stage across the globe on February 3, from Atlanta.
With smoke-on, the six jets of the Thunderbirds will soar over Mercedes-Benz Stadium to kick-off sports biggest game as Atlanta-born R and B legend Gladys Knight concludes the singing of the national anthem. Inside the stadium, an all-service U.S. Special Operations Command color guard will present the nation’s colors for the game’s national anthem.
The team’s red, white, and blue F-16 Fighting Falcons will fly in their signature Delta formation 500 feet above the stadium at a speed of about 450 m.p.h. The Thunderbirds flyover will occur at about 6:25 p.m.
“Supporting this event is a tremendous honor for the team and the U.S. Air Force,” Thunderbird Commander Lt. Col. John Caldwell said on Wednesday. “We look forward to showcasing the pride, precision, and professionalism of our nation’s 660,000 total force Airmen to football fans around the world.”
While in Atlanta, the Thunderbirds will be supported by nearby Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta. The 94th Airlift Wing will headquarter the pilots and crew, and provide fuel for the jets.
As for the retractable roof of Mercedes-Benz, the NFL states it will be a game day decision to have it open based on weather. NFL senior director of event operations Eric Finkelstein added on Wednesday that they may elect to leave it open just for the national anthem and fly over.
The Air Force has a budget to perform several flights above sporting events each year. In recent years, the Thunderbirds have flown over several Super Bowls, including in 2017 and 2015.
America’s Ambassadors in Blue are led by new team commander Lt. Col. John “Brick” Caldwell. Thunderbirds 2 through 8 are pilots Capt. Will “Boar” Graeff (left wing), Capt. Michael “Thorny” Brewer (right wing), Major Whit “Skate” Collins (slot), Major Matt Kimmel (lead solo); Capt. Michelle “Mace” Curran (opposing solo), Major Eric “Miami” Gorney (operations officer), and Major Jason “Flack” Markzon (advance pilot and narrator).
“The F-16 is a wonderful airplane to fly,” Major Collins noted. “There’s a lot of flight control computers in there that help you help the aircraft to fly. So you’re going from one G(ravity) to 9 G, it’s gonna be a smooth ride all the way there.”
(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)