On Tuesday, April 28, the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels flew in formation over New York City to honor New Yorkers serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. The flyover served as a salute to healthcare workers, first responders, military, and other essential personnel.
Named “Operation America Strong”, this flyover began at 12 p.m near the George Washington Bridge. Eight U.S Air Force Thunderbird F-16 Jets with red, white and blue markings joined seven U.S Navy Blue Angel Jets to flyover parts of Manhattan, Newark, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, Long Island, and Westchester County.
“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. “We hope to give Americans a touching display of American resolve that honors those serving on the frontline of our fight with COVID-19.”
Cmdr. Brian Kesselring, U.S Navy Blue Angels commanding officer and flight lead, echoed Caldwell’s thoughts. “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.”
Who Are the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels?
The Thunderbirds is the name given to the U.S Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron. It was first activated at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona on May 25, 1953. The first Thunderbirds team flew and maintained the F-84G Thunderjet to perform a series of formation aerobatics lasting about 15 minutes.
Since the inception of the Thunderbirds, 325 officers have worn the emblem of “America’s Ambassadors in Blue.” The Thunderbirds perform shows and demonstrations all around the country every year, usually between April and November.
The Blue Angels, meanwhile, are the United States Navy’s flight demonstration squadron. Initially formed in 1946, it’s the second oldest aerobatic team in the world. A total of 130 active-duty Sailors and Marines participate in the Blue Angels every year, “each one bringing experience and expertise from their service in the navy and Marine Corps fleets.”
Will There Be Other Flyovers?
The show of solidarity over New York and New Jersey became one of many the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels plan to perform throughout the United States.
Baltimore, Washington, D.C, Atlanta, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houson, and New Orleans are just a few of the cities that also enjoyed flyovers in early May.
As Major Zane Taylor, a pilot with the Thunderbirds shared, “This whole pandemic is so hard, because we’re fighting an invisible foe. And these health care workers are out there every day, putting their lives on the line. We’re just flying near hospitals and trying to show them that this is US supporting YOU. We can’t show you support in person, but this is a way for us to show you support from afar or overhead.”