Discover the great stories surrounding Air Force Academy Gameday Traditions, the Academy’s MACH 1 Mascot Falcon’s nickname and more!
Location: Colorado Springs, Col.
Conference: Mountain West
Colors: Blue and Silver
AIR FORCE MASCOT: MACH 1
Members of the class of 1959, the first to enter the academy, picked the falcon as the mascot of the cadet wing in 1955. Later that fall, they enlisted the first falcon to serve the academy. The mascot was a peregrine falcon named “Mach 1,” which refers to the speed of sound.
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 a six-week period. 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.
A costumed mascot known as “The Bird” also serves in the Academy’s ranks. Known for his unusual arrivals at season home openers, “The Bird” has arrived via limousine, parachute and horseback.
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.
Prior to 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.
AIR FORCE FALCONS NICKNAME
Unlike many nicknames that have mysterious or meaningless origins, the Air Force Academy’s nickname
suits perfectly. The qualities possessed by the falcon are reflected in many ways by the cadets the bird
Falcons are known for unhesitatingly attacking and killing prey twice their size. Due to military weight
standards, the Air Force football team typically matches up against foes that have much greater sized
Keen eyesight is another falcon characteristic that’s found in Air Force Cadets. Students at the academy
must have perfect vision to fly our nation’s elite aircraft.
The falcon also possesses other qualities that the Academy’s future naval officers must have to be
successful. These positive traits include speed, power, courage, alertness and a noble tradition.
The falcon’s heritage has also soared into the United States Air Force. Fittingly, one of the best weapons in
the Air Force arsenal is the F-16 Fighting Falcon
GAME DAY AT FALCON STADIUM
Besides witnessing the thrills of the Academy’s performing mascot, they typically treat fans to quite a
performance on and off the field. The U.S. Air Force Academy parachute team, the Wings of Blue, deliver the
game ball in exciting fashion. Against a backdrop of the breathtaking Rocky Mountains, the Wings of Blue
drop in Falcon Stadium for the proud tradition of delivering the game ball. A good omen that’s often
accomplished by the jump team is for a precise landing on the painted falcon positioned at midfield of the
52,480 seat stadium.
Fly bys over Falcon Stadium are also a celebrated pregame tradition. Whether its F-16’s, the famous Air Force
Thunderbirds or other flying Air Force inventory, the planes always create lots of excitement with their low
approach and sonic booming sound.