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Bandit Flight Team Delights NHL Crowd

For Country and Freedom

On 18 February 2023, the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Carolina Hurricanes squared-off against the Washington Capitals in a rare and spectacular, nighttime, outdoor game at North Carolina State University’s Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.

Capitals president Dick Patrick stated: "We are pleased to be selected to participate in our fourth outdoor game … versus the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2023 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series. Having previously participated in the 2018 Stadium Series in Annapolis, Maryland, we know the amazing atmosphere the event provides and are excited to perform on the national stage in such a marquee event."

The amazing atmosphere to which Mr. Patrick referred was supplemented—to the delight of roughly 57,000 hockey fans who turned up to see the Canes trounce the Caps by a score of 4 to 1—by a flyover comprising aircraft of the Bandit Flight Team, an all-volunteer group of pilots and ground coordinators that enjoys the distinction of being the United States’ most active aerial display team. NASCAR races at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, and Dover Speedway, as well as both collegiate and professional sporting events represent only a fraction of the myriad events over which the Bandit team has been featured.

The Bandit Flight Team is based in the vicinity of Raleigh, North Carolina, and operates a combined fleet of Van’s sport aircraft, Russian YAK 52s, and a WWII-era, Chinese Nanchang CJ-6s. Through the medium of their performances, the team’s highly-trained and experienced pilots combine their love of flying with an appreciation for vintage military aircraft for the twofold purpose of preserving aviation’s precious military Warbird heritage and saluting America’s returning war veterans.

The Bandit Flight Team began in 2009 as a smattering of Warbird pilots brought together by a shared love of formation flying. In 2010, a number of RV pilots joined the group, thereby giving rise to a formation flying team. For two years, the combined group practiced formation flying, attending formation clinics and sharpening their skills until every member of the group had earned an FAA Commercial Pilot Certificate and Formation Card.

In 2012, the group officially dubbed itself the Bandit Flight Team, and performed its first National Anthem flyover at a North Carolina State Football game. Currently, the Bandit Flight Team performs at over 25 yearly, national, local, charity, grand opening, corporate, and VIP events—the most heartfelt of which alternately honor U.S. military veterans—such as Missing Man Flights and memorial services—and raise monies for medical research.

The Bandit Flight Team was featured in a 2022 documentary film titled Flying for the Flag.



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