Driver Ed Carpenter heads to the sky with the Thunderbirds

National and World

INDIANAPOLIS — This year there are a lot of changes at the racing capital of the world for the Indy 500 happening this Sunday. 

Some old traditions are being changed while there are also some new additions.

For the first time at the race, the United States Air Force Thunderbirds will perform a flyover in what is only their second show this year.

“We’ve never done the Indy 500 flyover before, so this will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us,” said Thunderbird 8 Advanced Pilot and Narrator, Major Jason Markzon.

Thursday, IndyCar driver Ed Carpenter got the chance to take flight straight into the sky before hitting the track Sunday morning. And we were the only ones there to capture it. 

The wild ride required a lot of training, especially when flying with the Thunderbirds.

“It is very serious. I was here at 6:56. I think we took off at 10:30 and there wasn’t any waste of time,” Carpenter said.

The F-16 Fighting Falcons are preparing for only their second show after practicing since 2019. And they got to do it at the racing capital of the world. 

“I got to fly by IMS with the Thunderbird, flew over my house did some awesome maneuvers, pulled more G’s than I ever have in my life or probably ever will,” said Carpenter.

Carpenter tells me he previously trained for his pilot’s license but that went left as his career took off. He says this adventure motivated him to go back to, but he thinks he’s too far ahead in his career.

“We’ve got a similar ride if you will. He’s got kind of small cockpit driving 250 mph and I got a small cockpit and we’re going 500 mph,” said Major Markzon.

After the one-hour ride around the Circle City – Carpenter only had one thing to say.

“It was amazing.”

Especially after getting a chance to hit a few switches and hold his breath for some tricks.

Carpenter says this week has been rough with no fans and there’s nothing that could replace them, even traveling at twice the speed he’s used to. 

“Thrilled that we’re able to put on a show and entertain our fans. Hopefully they’ll be back with us sooner than later,” said Carpenter.

And this was also a special opportunity for the Thunderbirds.

“It’s an incredible opportunity and it’s a good mind shift that we have, mission shift. We did the ‘America Strong’ effort earlier this year to salute our healthcare heroes and medical professionals,” said Markzon.

The Thunderbirds also welcomed Carpenter to come fly with them as a pilot. They’ll be practicing for their flyover Saturday afternoon–if you’re near downtown, you may hear them roaring by.

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