Missy Franklin Invited to Fly With Thunderbirds at Air Force Academy Graduation

Five-time Olympic medalist Missy Franklin is taking to the air in style on Thursday after receiving an invite to fly with the Thunderbirds at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation ceremony right outside Colorado Springs.

The 29-year-old Franklin is expected to take flight around 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, continuing a tradition of Olympian aviation that began in 2019 with alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin. Last year, retired Olympic champion speed skater Apolo Ohno joined the Thunderbirds in the sky as they performed a series of daredevil feats, even managing to stay conscious during a 9G turn.

The Thunderbirds are a performing arm of U.S. Air Force pilots in F-16 fighter jets, putting on awe-inspiring air shows similar to the Blue Angels (which are affiliated with the Navy).

It’s not Franklin’s first time flying with the Thunderbirds as she actually joined them nine years ago during the 2015 Rocky Mountain Air show. Franklin, who was raised in Aurora, Colorado, called the experience “absolutely incredible” despite dealing with 9G maneuvers. In other words, she should be more than prepared for Thursday’s flyover at the end of the graduation reception.

The Thunderbirds are slated to arrive at the Peterson Space Force Base on Tuesday. They’ll practice in the nearby skies for the next couple days before the official flyover on Thursday afternoon.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is speaking at this year’s Air Force Academy commencement.

It’s been a season of celebrations for Franklin, who had her Regis Jesuit High School pool dedicated in her honor last month. She was still a high schooler when she won four gold medals (100 back, 200 back, 4×200 free relay, 4×100 medley relay) and a bronze (4×100 free relay) at the London 2012 Olympics.

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26 days ago

It’s nice to see Missy Franklin continue to be a representative of swimming.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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