The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels demonstration squads began their flyover of the United States on Tuesday to honor first responders in the fight against coronavirus, beginning in New York City, Newark, Trenton, and Philadelphia.
Thousands stopped to watch as the formations of six Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon and six Navy F-18 Hornet aircraft looped over the cities, including many first responders:
— Jeremy Crisp (@paojeremy) April 28, 2020
— NYC Health + Hospitals (@NYCHealthSystem) April 28, 2020
MCSO Bureau of Corrections Officer Tylor Salonia, a U.S. Navy Reservist and Hospital Corpsman mobilized at a COVID-19 field hospital at the Javits Center in N.Y.,captured images of the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds flyover on 4-28 in tribute to crisis responders.#AmericaStrong pic.twitter.com/m8ZpkFatyP
— Morris County Sheriff's Office (@morrissheriffnj) April 29, 2020
“We are truly excited to take to the skies with our Navy counterparts for a nation-wide tribute to the men and women keeping our communities safe.” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Caldwell, Thunderbird 1 and mission commander for the flyover, dubbed Operation America Strong.
“We hope to give Americans a touching display of American resolve that honors those serving on the frontline of our fight with COVID-19,” he said.
Navy Cmdr. Brian Kesselring, U.S. Navy Blue Angels commanding officer and flight leader added, “We are incredibly honored to have the opportunity to salute those working on the frontline of the COVID-19 response, we are in awe of your strength and resilience.”
“Thank you to all of those in essential industries keeping our nation moving forward. We will get through this. We are all in this together,” he said.
The teams will fly over areas of the country hardest hit by coronavirus, either in joint or individual team flights, every one to two days through mid-May.
The teams typically fly more than 30 air shows a year, but both have been forced to cancel performances due to the coronavirus outbreak, and the multi-city flyovers fulfill critical training requirements for both teams, a joint statement from the Air Force and Navy said.
“Pilots must execute a minimum number of flight hours to maintain proficiency. These flyovers will incur no additional cost to taxpayers,” it said.
“We’re excited to fly over cities across America as our way of saying thanks to the healthcare workers, first responders, and all the people who selflessly run into the breach working to keep America strong,” said Gen. Dave Goldfein, chief of staff of the Air Force, and Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of Naval Operations.
“This is also our way of showing that we are all in this together and that America’s spirit will prevail,” they said.