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Everything you need to know about the Air Force Academy graduation, road closures and more

President Joe Biden arrives at Peterson SFB late in the day
USAFA Trevor Cokley
Posted at 1:22 PM, May 19, 2023

COLORADO SPRINGS — The U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) Class of 2023 will graduate this Thursday to much fanfare with President Joe Biden delivering the commencement address and the US Air Force Thunderbirds air show.

The Thunderbirds arrived in Colorado Springs on Tuesday and are scheduled to practice this afternoon at the Air Force Academy. President Joe Biden is also expected to arrive on Air Force One this evening for an overnight stay.

Be aware there could be rolling road closures for the President's motorcade. The Federal Aviation Administration is also enacting flight restriction rules across Colorado Springs and El Paso County beginning at 5:30 pm Wednesday until 3:45 pm Thursday. In addition to traditional aircraft, this also impacts anyone who uses a drone for commercial or hobby purposes, skydiving, hang gliding, balloons, crop dusting, banner towing, sightseeing, model aircraft, and model rockets.

Read the full guidance from the FAA.

This year's event is open to members of the public who have already received tickets for graduation. If weather impacts the graduation event and it is moved indoors, tickets for the public will not be honored as security will be tightened. All parking for the Graduation Ceremony on Thursday is at Falcon Stadium.

Heavy traffic in any areas near the U.S. Air Force Academy on the north side of town can be expected due to visitors and people looking for a view of the Thunderbirds' practice and performance. Please remember it is illegal and unsafe to stop along I-25 to watch the aircraft.

US Air Force Thunderbirds
The US Air Force Thunderbirds arrive on May 30, 2023 ahead of the US Air Force Academy graduation.

The Thunderbird Flight times are as follows:

  • Tuesday - Arrival/Airshow Survey, 12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday - Stadium Flyover Practice, 10:30 a.m. - 11:30 am, Airshow Practice, 2:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
  • Thursday - Graduation Day Flyover and Airshow 12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m.

It should be noted that Graduation Flyover and Airshow times are subject to change. The flyover occurs after the last graduate receives their diploma and at that moment the class is dismissed signifying the transition from cadet to officer.

US Air Force Thunderbirds
Thunderbirds by Bruce Hausknech

Thursday, June 1 - USAFA Graduation Ceremony Schedule:

6:30 a.m. - Gates open, Falcon Stadium
7:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. - Pre-Graduation Reception (Invite Only), Blue and Silver Club
7:45 a.m. - 8:00 a.m. - Cadet Honor Guard Performance, Falcon Stadium
8:00 a.m. - 8:45 a.m. - Cadet Chorale Performance, Sabre Drill & In The Stairwell, Falcon Stadium
9:30 a.m. - 1:15 p.m. - Graduation Ceremony & Thunderbirds, Falcon Stadium

FSG AFA Grad Schedule.jpg

More information on graduation can be found online.

The US Air Force Thunderbirds team will send personnel to Colorado Springs in advance of their performance in order to conduct a site survey and facilitate a practice performance in the days before graduation.

Keep in mind you are not allowed to stop along I-25 to watch the practice or graduation performance.

Security will be higher this year due to the President taking part in the commencement. Expect random rolling road closures on the day of the event due to the President's motorcade.

USAFA Closures THURSDAY.jpg

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Information from the US Air Force Academy

Base Entry Guidelines

All vehicles entering the base are subject to inspection/search by security personnel and you may be asked to show proof of insurance, a valid vehicle registration, and a rental car agreement. Guests should refrain from bringing large bags, coolers, backpacks, or other items that will require additional scrutiny or searches from security personnel. The North and South Gate will be open for guests on graduation day for travel to the stadium.

FSG AFA Grad Supplies.jpg

Allowed/Prohibited Items at Parade Field and Falcon Stadium

All persons and their personal belongings are subject to an inspection, which may result in a search. The Academy is not responsible for items left at the gates or in the trash receptacles. Storage of prohibited items is not available and security personnel will ask visitors to store the item in their vehicle. On the day of graduation, entry into the stadium is not permitted once the ceremony begins, and guests may not depart the stadium until the Air Force Thunderbirds complete their aerial demonstration. Tailgate parties are not allowed on base.

Items allowed at Stillman Parade Field and Falcon Stadium

  • Food is allowed but must be displayed in a transparent 1-gallon Ziploc bag. Each ticketholder may have only one 1-gallon Ziploc.
  • Sunscreen is permitted but restricted to a 6-ounce or-less tube. Bottles and aerosol spray are not allowed into the stadium.
  • Factory-sealed transparent soft plastic water bottles are restricted to 24 ounces in size. Water is the only beverage permitted to be carried into the parade field or stadium. Exceptions may be made for visitors with medical conditions and for infants.
  • Infant diaper bags and carrier packs are permitted when an infant is present.
  • More information on approved handbags

Prohibited Items

  • Oxygen bottles are prohibited. However, Oxygen bottles prescribed by a physician are authorized.
  • Illegal substances, including Marijuana, which is illegal on federal property.
  • Firearms, knives, box cutters, scissors, or any weapon.
  • Alcohol, glass containers, bottles, cans, aerosol sprays, hard-sided (or Nalgene) plastic bottles.
  • Handbags larger than 12 by 12 by 12 inches.
  • Backpacks, including bota bags, wineskins, and camelbacks.
  • Laser pointers, fireworks, or any item deemed unsafe by security personnel.
  • Unapproved banners or signs larger than 18 by 24 inches.
  • Pets. Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant service animals are allowed.
  • Any artificial noisemaker.
  • Baby seats or large strollers. Collapsible strollers are allowed.
  • Seatbacks wider than 19 inches. No armrests.

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