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U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds return to skies after F-16 accident in Colorado

By Doug G. Ware
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U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds return to skies after F-16 accident in Colorado
Newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenants celebrate as the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over the U.S. Air Force Academy Class of 2016 graduation ceremony at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo., on June 2, 2016. Moments after this photograph was taken, one of the F-16s suffered an engine failure and prompted the pilot to eject. Tuesday, the team returned to the skies after a five-day stand-down order. Photo by Mike Kaplan/U.S. Air Force/UPI | License Photo

COLORADO SPRINGS, June 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force's flight demonstration team returned to the skies Tuesday, five days after an accident near the branch's academy in Colorado grounded the fleet.

The Thunderbirds F-16 Fighting Falcons took flight Tuesday near Colorado Springs but officials said the team's participation at air shows in the future is uncertain.

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The squad was ordered to stand down Thursday after an F-16 went down in a field, just moments after it was one of five jets performing a traditional flyover at the academy's commencement ceremony, which was attended by President Barack Obama.

The pilot ejected safely and said his plane's engine suddenly failed in flight. It was the first accident involving a Thunderbirds F-16 in 13 years.

RELATED Pilot ejects after F-16 from USAF graduation flyover loses engine power

The cause of the accident remains under investigation.

RELATED Thursday: Pilot ejects after F-16 from USAF graduation flyover loses engine power

Officials said the Thunderbirds will not perform at an air show this weekend in Rhode Island, as previously scheduled. Another show in Maryland the following weekend is also in doubt.

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The accident in Colorado was one of two involving a U.S. military fighter jet on Thursday. The pilot of an F/A-18 Hornet with the Navy's Blue Angels demonstration team was killed in Tennessee just hours later after he also suffered an engine failure, moments after takeoff.

RELATED Navy pilot killed after 'Blue Angels' F/A-18 Hornet crashes in Tennessee

The Blue Angels team is similarly uncertain about its air show future.

"Thursday, 2 Jun, was an extremely difficult day for all four military services," the Thunderbirds wrote on its website. "We've had the honor of working closely with the Blues in the air show industry and we respect them for their professionalism, talent, and incredible commitment to excellence."

RELATED Obama at Air Force Academy graduation: Nobody can match America's military

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