U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds to perform fly-over for 54th annual Daytona 500

The world-renowned U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will provide race fans with the flyover during the National Anthem for the 54th annual Daytona 500 – the prestigious season-opening event for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 26 at Daytona International Speedway.

It’s the third time the flying team, officially known as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, will perform the flyover for the Daytona 500. The Thunderbirds previously flew over the race in 2008 and 2011.

“It’s an honor to have the USAF Thunderbirds return to the ‘World Center of Racing’ and participate in the 54th annual Daytona 500 pre-race activities,” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said. “The Thunderbirds are known throughout the world as an elite flying squadron and their rousing fly-over at the conclusion of the National Anthem will give goose bumps to the thousands of race fans in attendance and millions more watching on FOX Sports.”

“It’s hard to imagine a better way to start our 2012 demonstration season,” said Lt. Col. Greg Moseley, the Thunderbirds commander and flight leader. “Being part of an event as celebrated as the ‘Great American Race’ is a tremendous opportunity, and we look forward to showcasing the pride, precision and professionalism of the U.S. Air Force to NASCAR fans.”

The Thunderbirds flyover will feature six F-16 Fighting Falcons, the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter aircraft, soaring over the speedway at the moment the final notes of the Star-Spangled Banner are sung.

The Thunderbirds team is an Air Combat Command unit composed of eight pilots (including six demonstration pilots), four support officers, four civilians and more than 100 enlisted people serving in about 30 Air Force job specialties. In 2012, the Thunderbirds will perform precision aerial maneuvers at more than 60 air shows in 32 different locations in North America.

Since the unit’s inception in 1953, more than 350 million people in all 50 states and 61 countries have witnessed the distinctive red, white and blue jets in thousands of official aerial demonstrations.