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Thunderbirds practice aerial acrobatics ahead of USAFA graduation


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Air Force's F-16 aerial acrobatic team known as the Thunderbirds practiced various maneuvers high above Falcon Stadium and northern Colorado Springs.

One of the best viewing areas for the general public today was the parking lot at Bass Pro Shops along I-25 in northern Colorado Springs.

"Nothing like this anywhere else. Only Colorado Springs," said Gary Salazar, who has come out to watch the Thunderbirds' annual performance for the last seven years.

"The barrel rolls, you know the maneuvers....they’re just awesome,400 foot," said Salazar's wife, Angelline.

For many others, Tuesday's rehearsal was their first ever glimpse at the Thunderbirds in action.

"I have never seen the thunderbirds before…ever. They’re just kind of flying all over the place. You see them going really fast and close between each other and it kind of gives you a jolt when they pass by!" said Crystal Schabinger of Colorado Springs.

During every Thunderbirds performance, the pilots try to execute their maneuvers within a 400-foot radius of the jets and their audience. And Wednesday’s radius will be centered directly over Falcon Stadium.

The Western Mining Museum next to Bass Pro Shops has two tall mining headframes on its property that were originally used to remove blasted rock and gold ore in the early 1900's.

The Air Force Academy now regularly uses them as pivot points for its jets.

Wednesday's graduation coverage begins at 9:30 a.m. on KRDO Newschannel13 with a 30 minute performance by the Thunderbirds expected around 12:30 p.m.

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