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USAF Thunderbirds tear up the skies over Colorado for the first time in 18 years

June 2, 2015 (by Anthony Cornelius) - The USAF Air Demonstration Squadron "The Thunderbirds" tore up the skies over Aurora Colorado this past weekend for the 2015 Rocky Mountain Airshow. They travel to Colorado every year for the USAF Academy graduation flyover but have not given a public performance in the state since 1997.

Major Darrick Lee gets sprayed with champagne after exiting the cockpit of his sendoff ride. [Photo by Anthony Cornelius]

The Thunderbirds Team travels throughout the United States and internationally, performing aerobatic formation and solo flying in their F-16C/D Fighting Falcon aircraft. The squadron's name is taken from the legendary creature that appears in the mythologies of several indigenous North American cultures.

This trip not only was marked as the first public show in Colorado for over 18 years for the team, but was also marked as the last show for one of its members. This trip marked the end of the road for Thunderbird #12, Darrick Lee’s time with the team.

Major Darrick Lee is a Colorado native and was the Public Affairs officer for the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron. He was responsible for the team’s marketing, recruiting and publicity programs. During high school, he developed an interest in journalism and then he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1990 and served as a combat photographer before being commissioned through the Air Force Officer Training School in 2002.

Before joining the team, Major Lee was the Chief of Public Affairs at Misawa Air Base, Japan. For a final farewell to #12 Thunderbird #4 took Darrick up in a F-16D fighting falcon during a full show rehearsal on the Friday before the airshow. Once back on the ground Darrick was greeted by his family and then instantly sprayed by Thunderbirds 1-6 with bottles of champagne.

While in Colorado the Thunderbirds performed at the U.S Air Force Academy before moving on to Buckley AFB in Aurora to fly 2 media flights (Missy Franklin, 4 time Olympic gold medalist and hometown hero Patrick Shaker, first responder to the Aurora Theater Shooting incident) 1 practice demo and 2 full demos over the Aurora Reservoir all in the course of 3 days.

After departing Buckley the Thunderbirds were scheduled to go home to Nellis AFB, Nevada for a quick pit stop before moving on to their next show site.

Information regarding Darrick Lee obtained from the official United States Air Force Thunderbirds.

Additional images:

Thunderbird #1 begins to pitch left off of the Diamond to land at Buckley AFB to prepare for the upcoming show weekend. [Photo by Anthony Cornelius]

Thunderbird maintenance personal launch jets 1-6 for a training sortie over the Aurora Reservoir out of Buckley AFB. [Photo by Anthony Cornelius]

The Thunderbird Diamond pitches to land over Thunderbird #7 after performing over the Aurora Reservoir. [Photo by Anthony Cornelius]