PENSACOLA, Fla. — The six blue and gold jets of the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels honored the healthcare professionals and first responders with extended flyovers across Nashville and Little Rock on Thursday.
Flying across sunny skies, the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron continued their flights over medical facilities across the eastern United States. Government support for their America Strong flights are tied into money already appropriated for their air show season.
“The America Strong initiative is a way for the Blue Angels to show appreciation to the thousands of nurses, doctors, firefighters, grocery store employees, military personnel, and many others who are at the front line of the pandemic response,” Blue Angels Boss Cmdr. Brian Kesselring said on Wednesday. “This is our opportunity to salute each American in the fight against COVID-19.”
The Blue Angels departed their home base at NAS Pensacola at 10:23 a.m. CDT, soaring into partly cloudy skies over the Emerald Coast. In an unprecedented move, the Blue Angels provided a unique view of their taxi and take-off.
As the Blue Angels powered up their aircraft and began their move on the Florida runway, the team broadcast live video from inside the cockpit of an F/A-18D Hornet. A live microphone helped capture the feel of being inside the cockpit of the military jet.
The Blue Angels arrival over south central Tennessee was met by two KC-10 Extenders from JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. The two Air Force aircraft began refueling the Navy jets at 11:35 a.m., as they flew in multiple oval patterns of the area.
The Blue Angels first flyover began east of Smyrna, Tennessee, and moved in a V-shape track to the south and then west of the city. The squadron’s delta formation then flew west to Franklin, and then northward to Nashville.
Cars along Nashville’s interstates and local roads slowed and pedestrians stopped to look toward the city’s skyline at the jets performed several passes beginning at 12:09 p.m. The six jets and one chase plane flew over the skyline, smoke-on, as they thanked the local healthcare employees.
The Blue Angels then raced west toward Memphis to rejoin with the twin KC-10s to refuel again. Two larger jets with three smaller jets following behind.
The Navy’s jet team arrived over western Little Rock at about to perform a flyover along the Arkansas River. The brief five minute flyover circled the capital city’s downtown district before heading off to the east.
As the sun set over the Pensacola Naval Training Facility, no new set of flyover locations have been announced by the team. The probability that the team’s Covid-19 flyovers have concluded looms on the horizon, or will they fly one final set of cities in a few days.
(Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)