PENSACOLA, Fla. — The Navy’s Blue Angels honored the healthcare professionals fighting on the frontlines of Covid-19 on Wednesday during a series of flyover salutes in Texas and Louisiana.
The flights across four major U.S. cities were flown on National Nurses Day. The squadron also recognized first responders, local military, and other essential personnel working to improve life during the crisis.
Six blue and gold F/A-18 Hornets performed flyovers of healthcare facilities in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston before concluding the day over New Orleans. This was their third day of Operation America Strong, and their first without the Air Force Thunderbirds alongside.
The Thunderbirds had departed Naval Air Station Pensacola on Monday to return home to Nellis AFB in Nevada. They plan to announce a new set of flyover salutes this week over several western cities.
“America Strong is about showing how much we, as a nation, count on our frontline responders and that we have their back just like they have had ours,” Blue Angels Boss Cmdr. Brian Kesselring expressed on Tuesday. “They have always been there for us all, holding our nation together, even more so during this pandemic.”
Southern Flyovers Salute Frontline Covid-19 Employees
Flying at 400 m.p.h. across each city, the Blue Angels aligned in a six plane delta formation — smoke-on. The popular flyovers were greeted in each location by cheers and applause under sunny skies.
The flyovers began at 11:00 a.m. CDT, as the Blue Angels delta approached Dallas from the north. Leading a six column smoke trail, the jets began to zig-zag with a series of left and right banks.
Sixteen minutes later, the Blue Angels began their approach over Fort Worth to the west. A huge S-turn maneuver aligned the squadron to flyover AT&T Stadium in Arlington before moving into downtown.
“This one hits closer to home, as we will be flying directly over the hospital area in Dallas where I was born, and the area where I lived until age 4 just southwest of Dallas,” Blue Angels left wing pilot Major Frank Zastoupil said on Tuesday. “Thank-you Texas and all the frontline COVID responders there, this one is for y’all and everyone whose lives have changed during this challenging time.”
The Blues then flew south to conduct a series of Houston flyovers. The squadron concluded with a smoke-on salute over NASA’s Johnson Space Center at 1 p.m.
The Blue Angels turned their jets eastward toward New Orleans for the final flyover of the day. Crowds lined streets across the Crescent City and around southern Lake Pontchartrain.
The jets departed eastern New Orleans at 2:05 p.m. to return home to NAS Pensacola. The Blue Angels had logged nearly 1900 miles roundtrip.
“Make sure to look to those around you in your communities and realize how incredibly strong we can be when we come together,” Maj. Zastoupil added.
The Blue Angels will fly again on Friday as they perform America Strong flights over Miami and Jacksonville. The squadron will likely make a special pass above the Kennedy Space Center.
(Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)