Discover the great stories surrounding  Air Force Academy Gameday Traditions, the Academy's MACH 1 Mascot Falcon's nickname and more!

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Air Force Mascot: Mach 1

Every sports team has a mascot to rally their fan base, but few mascots are as awe-inspiring as the falcon that graces the Air Force Academy's sidelines. The Air Force Academy falcons have been part of the school since 1956 and have become an integral part of their fans' game day experience.

The Falcons at the Air Force Academy are trained and handled by cadet falconers, who give each bird its own individual name. Falconers’ duties include daily checks of each bird’s health and condition, training sessions during which the birds are fed a measured ration of meat, frequent cleaning of the mews and routine maintenance of equipment. This is all necessary to ensure that they perform as best they can during game days. Their performances are limited to outdoor venues, where they make appearances at football games, cadet wing parades, and other outdoor sporting events.

Air Force Academy Mascot Nova

When an Air Force Academy Falcon is performing, fans are dazzled when they get to witness these majestic birds soar and dive through the air—sometimes even zooming low over the heads of captivated spectators! The specific falcons in the mascot lineup include Anatum Peregrine falcons, full white-phase Gyrfalcons, American Kestrels, and more. Each type provides its own unique style of flight that helps add to an amazing display for everyone watching on game day.

Each bird that has served the academy has carried the Mach 1 name but receives an individual name from the cadet group known as the falconers. The cadets that care for and train the mascots keep 12 to 15 falcons. For a falcon to be properly trained, the falconers spend an average of 300 hours of labor over six weeks. Though they never completely domesticate the falcons, they train them to fly for more than an hour and make repeated stoops at a baited lure held by a cadet falconer.

Hailed as the NCAA’s only performing mascot, the Air Force Falcon is a crowd-pleaser. The bird can achieve a speed of more than 200 miles per hour and makes the game day experience even more exciting by diving and zooming low over the heads of spectators.

Bye, Bye Birdie

Gaining His Independence - The Academy's mascot made national headlines following a detour that it made following a bowl game flying performance in 2010. The mascot named "Ace" took the bowl game's name to heart when he sought his own "independence" by flying away from the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, LA. Fortunately, ACE was found and was returned to the stadium by the fourth quarter.

Snared by West Point - Before the 2018 Air Force - Army game at West Point, Aurora, an Air Force Falcon mascot was kidnapped by Army Cadets. The prank went from giggles to a national story when Aurora was returned bloodied and with life-threatening injuries. According to Sam Dollar, Air Force's falconry team adviser, told The New York Times that two West Point cadets took the birds, threw sweaters over them, and stuffed them into dog crates. Dollar said the cadets turned over the birds Saturday morning of the game, with Aurora's wings bloodied — likely from thrashing inside the crate.


In the world of sports, team nicknames can be a bit mysterious or meaningless. But that's not the case with the Air Force Academy's nickname - the Falcons. The qualities possessed by these birds of prey are precisely mirrored by the cadets they represent. Falcons are renowned for attacking and killing prey twice their size without hesitation. The Air Force football team faces opponents with significantly larger linemen due to the strict military weight standards. Still, like the falcon, these cadets show no fear, take down their opponents, and emerge victorious. Additionally, falcons are known for their incredible eyesight, and in the same vein, Air Force Academy students must have exemplary vision to fly the country's elite aircraft. With characteristics such as speed, power, courage, alertness, and a noble tradition, it's no wonder the Falcon nickname suits the cadets perfectly.

Playing for the Commander-in-Chief Trophy

Commander-In-Chief Trophy

The Commander-in-Chief's Trophy is the ultimate prize for any football team representing the Air Force Academy, Army, or Navy. It was created by Air Force General George B. Simler, who was keen on the idea of establishing an annual football series that would involve these elite military institutions. As we speak, the Air Force is in the lead, consistently edging out its rivals year after year. What's unique about the trophy is how it's designed - three gleaming silver footballs perched on an elegant circular base with three sections cut out for each academy. Sealing the deal are three silver mascots standing in each cut-out area. The trophy is named in honor of the Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States, who oversees every branch of the military under the Constitution. When it comes to football, the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy is a colossal battle, and the Air Force Academy intends to retain it for as long as humanly possible.

Air Force Football Gameday Traditions

The U.S. Air Force Academy's game day traditions are a must-see for any sports fan. Not only does the Academy's performing mascot provide thrills, but the Wings of Blue parachute team take things to new heights (literally). Against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, they deliver the game ball in spectacular fashion, with impressive precision when landing on the painted falcon in the stadium's center. But the excitement doesn't stop there. Spectators are also treated to fly-bys from F-16's, the famous Air Force Thunderbirds, and other inventory, causing quite the sonic boom. These beloved pregame traditions are a testament to the pride and skill of the United States Air Force Academy.