The U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation is set to showcase a never-before-seen flyover formation at the Super Bowl LVI at the SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Sunday, featuring aircraft spanning the branch’s 75 years of service.
Steve Hinton, a world-renowned Hall of Fame aviator, will lead the flyover formation on behalf of the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation (AFHFF). In an interview with American Military News, Hinton described the unique aerial spectacle, which is part of the Air Force’s 75th anniversary year celebrations.
“This particular formation we haven’t done before at an event,” Hinton said.
Hinton will be flying in a P-51 Mustang, one of the Air Force’s first aircraft. The other aircraft in the formation will include an A-10 Thunderbolt, an F-16 Fighting Falcon, an F-22 Raptor and an F-35 Lighting.
“The P-51 is one of the more famous aircraft from military aviation,” Hinton said. “It went from a piece of paper to a flying airplane in 100 days during World War II.”
The P-51 entered service in 1942 with the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF), the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force. Following World War II, the P-51 was eventually redesignated as the F-51. The fighters continued to serve with the U.S. Air Force after its formation in 1947 and were ultimately retired in 1957.
Hinton’s particular P-51, “Wee Willy II” is painted up in tribute to “Wee Willie II” which 1st Lt. Calvert L. Williams of the 357th Fighter Group flew during World War II.
The first iteration of the A-10 Thunderbolt entered service with the Air Force in 1975 and upgraded versions of the aircraft continue to serve with the branch to this day. An A-10 from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona will also be participating in Sunday’s flyover.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon entered service with the Air Force in 1979 and improved versions continue to serve to this day. The F-16 participating in Sunday’s flyover comes from Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.
The F-22 Raptor entered service with the Air Force in 2005. The F-22 for the formation comes from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.
The Air Force’s F-35A Lighting variant entered service in 2016. The F-35 participating in the flyover comes from Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
Hinton said placing the P-51 out front will serve the practical effect of allowing the older prop aircraft to set the pace for the faster fighter jets, and serve the aesthetic effect of showcasing the evolution of the Air Force’s airpower.
Hinton said the flight formation team has been working with the FAA to make sure they can fly the formation can go forward without any problems.
“There’s been so much work on that end to make this happen, so my hat’s off to them,” he said. “We’ve just got to keep our fingers crossed the weather’s going to be good because we need good visibility during that day.”
Hinton said that so long as the conditions hold for Sunday, “our team is ready” for the unique flyover.
“The actual rundown over the SoFi Stadium is going to be a one-time shot,” Hinton said.
The formation will also serve as Hinton’s retirement flight with the AFHFF.
“It’s been an honor,” Hinton said. “This will be my last participation with the Heritage Flight Foundation, flying-wise anyway.”