Thunderbirds Ready for Big Game
Friday afternoon, the United States Air Force Thunderbirds touched down at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas for Super Bowl LI.
Saturday, the team began making final preparations ahead of Sunday's big game, which included media flights and a practice flyover.
The rehearsal flyover is crucial to the team's success on Sunday, and successfully planning a specific TOT, or time over target, requires extensive planning and coordination.
Once the Thunderbirds' signature Delta formation takes off Sunday afternoon from Ellington Field and begins flying toward the stadium, they can only speed up or slow down their arrival by 10 seconds.
Thunderbird 8, the team's advance pilot and narrator, will be inside of NRG Stadium Sunday to coordinate the flyover. He says that for each stanza of the national anthem, the team has a time and distance for where the six F-16's should be.
On Saturday, the Delta took to the skies and practiced flying over NRG Stadium. Thunderbird 8 had intentions of multiple practice flyovers preparing for all possible circumstances, but low clouds kept the team from performing more than one flyover.
Sunday afternoon, the Thunderbirds will takeoff 30 minutes before the national anthem and will make large, left-hand turns 25 to 35 miles south of the stadium. From there, it will take the team less than five minutes to get to the 50-yard line.
Following the flyover, the pilots will touch down at Ellington Field and make their way to the stadium, where they will be recognized during the game.