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Formation of historic aircraft set to flyover Super Bowl LII opening ceremonies

By: Tony Peck
February 2, 2018 Updated: February 2, 2018 at 2:58 pm
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photo - The F-16s of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds practice for the 2017 Air Force Academy's graduation. Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette
The F-16s of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds practice for the 2017 Air Force Academy's graduation. Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette 

On Sunday, before Super Bowl LII kicks off, four historic warplanes will perform a flyover to a television audience of millions.

During the game’s opening ceremonies, the Air Force’s Heritage Flight Foundation will perform a flyover of U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The formation will consist of a P-51 Mustang, an F-16 Viper, and two A-10 Thunderbolt IIs.

It is the first time that the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation, a nonprofit formed in 2010, will perform a flyover for the Super Bowl.

"Never before in my more than 35-year flying career have I flown over the world's biggest sports stage: 111 million eyeballs is quite the audience," Steve Hinton, who will pilot the P-51, told ABC News. "I'm extremely proud to represent the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation and fly alongside Air Combat Command pilots to honor the countless servicemen and women past and present who selflessly serve our country."

Hinton is almost as famous to the aviation community as the historic warbird he will fly on Sunday.

After acquiring over 7,000 flight hours in World War II fighters he flew a modified P-51 Mustang, named Voodoo, at a speed of 555 mph to break the world speed record for internal combustion engine powered aircraft in 2017.

The P-51 is one of the most famous U.S. fighter aircraft, famous for taking on the German Luftwaffe over Europe during World War II.

The other two planes in the formation still have active roles in the Air Force.

Maj. John Waters will fly the F-16 from the F-16 Viper Demonstration Team based out of Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

The F-16 Viper is a multi-role fighter designed to be highly maneuverable. According to the Air Force, the F-16 has played a large part in Iraq and Afghanistan and has flown thousands of sorties in support of operation Noble Eagle, which has protected North American airspace since September 11.

Air Force pilots Maj. Dan Levy and Capt. Chad Rudolph will fly the A-10 Thunderbolts IIs from the A-10C Thunderbolt II Demonstration Team out of Davis-Mothan Air Force Base, Arizona.

The A-10 Thunderbolt was the first Air Force aircraft designed specifically for close air support of ground forces. The plane is famous for its 30mm seven-barreled Gatling gun.

“This flyover flight is more than just a simple high-speed pass over a professional sports stadium,” Rudolph told Air Force Public Affairs. “This flight is a representation of the Air Force's dedication to preserving the past of those that have executed the same missions long before us.”

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