One of the Thunderbirds that was to be part of the air show over Falcon Stadium on Thursday after the Air Force Academy graduation had to return to Peterson Air Force Base after a bird hit the jet's canopy soon after takeoff.
Initially reported as a mechanical problem, the Air Force later said it was caused by the jet striking a bird. The F-16 landed without incident and did not rejoin the rest of the Air Force aerobatic team for the show that followed graduation at the Air Force Academy.
The Thunderbirds were flying at their 58th academy graduation. Their first performance was May 30, 1959 during the academy's inaugural graduation week. Though they did not fly during the ceremony, which was indoors that year, their pilots were in the audience.
In 2016, a Thunderbird jet crashed in a field just south of the Colorado Springs Airport after the academy's graduation. The crash of the F-16 fighter destroyed the $29 million plane, but the pilot safely ejected.
The crash was blamed on a throttle malfunction, according to an accident investigation.