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An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy

A French air force flying team will roar over the Air Force Academy on April 19 to celebrate the nations' bonds built in the sky during World War I.


Patrouille de France, that nation's equivalent of the Air Force Thunderbirds, will arrive over the academy about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 19, for a brief air show. It's a big flying team with eight Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jets, a twin-engined light attack fighter that's known for its nimbleness.

"I think folks in Colorado Springs will get a great miniature airshow," said Lt. Col. Allen Herritage, an Air Force Academy spokesman.

The Patrouille de France flying over Paris during Bastille Day 2015. (Photo by wiki user XtoF)

This year marks the centennial of formal U.S. involvement in World War I, with America declaring war on the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the German monarchy on April 6, 1917.

The first Americans to reach the aerial battlefields of France, though, were American airmen of the French air force's Lafayette Escadrille, a fighter unit with American pilots that was established a year before the United States entered the war.

America's first flying aces came from the small French unit, including Maj. Gervais Lufberry, who was credited with downing 16 planes before he was killed over Francein 1918.

The relationship built over the trenches between French and American pilots is still celebrated at the Air Force Academy today.

Herritage said the school has a French officer on the faculty and French exchange cadets on the campus. One of the pilots on the French flying team, Maj. Nicolas Lieumont, was an exchange student at the Colorado Springs school.

"We feel lucky to have them stop in Colorado Springs," Herritage said. "It marks our nation's longstanding relationship with France."

The academy is inviting locals to get a better view of the French team. Visitors are welcome at the academy on April 19 and can watch the show from a viewing area near the Cadet chapel.