CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Col. Buzz Aldrin’s voyage aboard Apollo 11 to become mankind’s second human to walk on the Moon will still top the excitement of his jet flight on Sunday with the Air Force’s Thunderbirds over America’s Space Coast.
Retired Air Force Col. and astronaut Buzz Aldrin departed Melbourne International Airport on Sunday morning in the backseat of Thunderbird 7 and flew in the diamond formation above the Kennedy Space Center and launch complex 39-A. The Apollo 11 veteran had lifted off with Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins nearly 48 years earlier from the same launch pad.
Aldrin, who turned 87 in January, became the oldest person to ever fly with the Thunderbirds. His 22-minute flight also covered the beaches of Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral.
The active space promoter working to get America to Mars arrived about 7:00 a.m. for the Thunderbirds traditional preflight briefing and suit-up, including helmet checks. Buzz showed his serious side during the briefing speaking little as he focused on what he will experience in flight.
Once aboard the F-16D Fighting Falcon, he paused at the top of the jet’s ladder for a few images with his name blazoned on side of the aircraft. Following ingress, Dr. Aldrin was guided by his Thunderbird 7 pilot LT. Col. Kevin Walsh as he donned his helmet, learned about the cockpit displays, and the arming of his rocket powered ejection seat.
“In 1969, Buzz Aldrin broke barriers and set foot on the moon,” Thunderbirds spokesperson Capt. Sara Harper said from the flight line on Sunday. “He is a true American hero and pioneer. We are proud of his accomplishments and the legacy he represents every day.”
Cheers from the flight line erupted as Walsh steered him and Buzz back to the tarmac and parked. Buzz looked fit as he left the aircraft and he did not get sick in flight.