'Amazing' flyovers scheduled before Air Force-Army football game

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform an air show after the U.S. Air Force Academy Class of 2016 graduation ceremony at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 2, 2016.


By TOM ROEDER | The Gazette (Tribune News Service) | Published: November 4, 2017

The gridiron rivalry between the Air Force and Army, a crucial match-up in the service academies' annual competition for the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, will be on display Saturday in Falcon Stadium. Friday, though, was about cooperation, with the Air Force and Army demonstrating how they work together on the battlefield.

"Today's exercise was a good testament to our joint power," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas Ghio, an airman who works at Fort Carson to help Army units call in fighters and bombers for support.

Ghio flew to the academy on an Army helicopter and helped coordinate a flyover by Air Force A-10 attack planes and F-16 fighters. The planes swooped over the academy for 20 minutes in mock bombing runs.

"It's amazing," Ghio said of the show.

The show of air power is just starting over Colorado Springs. A series of flyovers Saturday will precede the 1:30 p.m. football game between the Falcons and the Black Knights of the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.

Several aircraft will buzz the stadium to whip up the Air Force crowd. The rarest of them is the U-2 Dragon Lady, a spy plane designed in the 1950s. The plane is 63 feet from nose to tail, with a 103-foot wingspan, allowing it to fly at altitudes topping 70,000 feet to spy on enemy targets.

The secretive spy plane got more exposure than it wanted in 1960 when a U-2 flown by CIA Capt. Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union. Powers was captured and the ensuing international incident froze what had been warming relations between the Eisenhower administration and the Kremlin.

The U-2 will be joined in the sky by a flight of A-10s, the Air Force's tank killer. The twin-engine jet is heavily armored and packs a massive 30-mm cannon to destroy ground targets.

The gun gives the A-10 a pug-nosed appearance that earned it the nickname "Warthog."

The A-10's prettier cousin will also visit. F-16 fighters from Buckley Air Force Base, sleek single-engine fighters known for their nimble handling, will lance over the stadium.

The 10-ton fighter will be dwarfed by another plane joining the show.

A 100-ton B-1 bomber is scheduled to fly past. It can carry more than 60 tons of bombs.

You don't need tickets to the football game to see the planes.

They'll fly over western Colorado Springs on their way north, giving half the town a show. They'll also be visible in northern neighborhoods as they pass. One note of caution: You can watch the planes from anywhere except Interstate 25. The Colorado State Patrol frowns on drivers who turn into plane spotters.

More than Air Force fans will be watching Saturday's flyovers from Falcon Stadium. The Army, with nearly 25,000 soldiers at Fort Carson, will turn out a big crowd of West Point boosters.

Carson boss Maj. Gen. Randy George said it's a brief dose of rivalry amid a year of unity.

"We love our Air Force brothers and sisters," said George, a West Point graduate. "Except for on Saturday."

©2017 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
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