KSLA Salutes: Meet the Air Force pilot leading the Super Bowl LV flyover
WHITEMAN AFB, Mo. (KSLA) - The flyover at Super Bowl LV will be a first-of-it’s kind. The world will be watching on Super Bowl Sunday when a trio of Air Force bombers going nearly 300 mph fly over at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida in a pregame tradition unlike any other.
Leading the flyover is Captain Sarah “Gucci” Kociuba; She will take off from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, just 61 miles away from Kansas City.
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Kociuba attended the University of Dayton and earned her commission through ROTC there. She then went to Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi, learned how to fly and earned her wings. She flew KC-10′s, deployed several times and now flies and is an instruction pilot for the B-2 program at Whiteman AFB.
She will be piloting the B-2 Spirit leading the flyover this Sunday.
“The B-2 is going to be in the front of a triangular formation,” Kociuba said. “The B-1 will be on my right side and the B-52 will be on my left side.”
The B-2 will be taking off from Whiteman AFB in Missouri, the B-1 will be taking off from Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota, and the B-52 will be taking off from Minot AFB in North Dakota.
“All three jets will take off from their respective bases and rejoin over Tampa for the flyover,” Kociuba said. “The training has been very intense. A lot of preparation, mission planning, briefings, studying is part of this whole process. We fly formation quite often but it is not as regular for us to fly a dissimilar formation with three different bombers together. It is a great training exercise and opportunity for us to come together as a formation and showcase these three bombers can be anywhere, any time, any place in the world to execute the mission we need to and this one just happens to be a flyover. We will all continue to prep, mission prep, plan and brief and we will rejoin just outside of Tampa, very low altitude for a very fast, very close formation for the flyover.”
Kociuba has an impressive background: she a B-2 instructor pilot and has flown more than 90 combat missions with more than 1,700 flying hours in five different planes.
“I’m very humbled to be chosen to be part of this formation and to lead it,” Kociuba said.
The U.S. Air Force states it performs close to 1,000 flyovers a year that serve as a way to showcase the capabilities of our aircraft while also inspiring patriotism and future generations of aviation enthusiasts.
It’s something close to Kociuba’s heart.
“When I was little I went to a lot of air shows and I really loved seeing the jets as a little kid,” Kociuba said. “When I was 11 my parents took me to the Rose Bowl parade and I got to see the B-2 flyover then. I was awestruck and mesmerized by the jet. I am very excited to be on the other end of this now and be the pilot leading the formation. Hopefully just seeing the jets, seeing this awesome formation of bombers together will inspire some kids out there and young adults to potentially do this as well like it did for me.”
The flight will take seven to eight hours round trip before the bombers return to their respective bases – meaning Kociuba is missing the big game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs.
“I will be cheering on the Chiefs for this one, so hopefully no one will give me any spoilers because I’ll land after the game is done,” Kociuba said.
“Supporting this event is a tremendous honor for our command and the U.S. Air Force,” said Gen. Tim Ray, AFGSC commander stated in a press release. “We look forward to this opportunity to showcase the reliability, flexibility and precision of our bomber fleet to the nation during this exciting event.”
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