ATLANTA — The Navy’s Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds returned to the skies in joint formations on Saturday to conduct a second series of flyovers to thank professionals on the frontlines of Covid-19.
Crowds on the ground cheered and applauded as the two military flight squadrons flew over Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds are flying to salute America’s nurses, doctors, first responders, and the other essential employees.
The Thunderbirds six F-16 Fighting Falcon jets and the Blue Angels six F/A-18 Hornets flew in precision formation and stayed on schedule. Their non-stop, six-hour roundtrip flight covered nearly 2,400 miles.
“We are honored to fly over these cities in a display of national unity and support for the men and women keeping our communities safe.” Thunderbirds commander and pilot Lt. Col. John Caldwell said on Friday. “These flyovers are a gesture of goodwill on behalf of the entire Department of Defense to the heroes of the COIVD-19 pandemic.”
Military Jet Teams Begin America Strong Flyovers
The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds departed Pensacola at 9:21 a.m. EDT, for their first flyover in Baltimore. Moments later, the teams were met over south of Atlanta by four KC-10 Extender aircraft for the first aerial refueling of the flight.
Keeping on a tight schedule, the jets arrived over historic Fort McHenry to begin their first flyover at 11:29 a.m. The two squadrons of 14 jets then flew over Baltimore, making a series of loops over local hospitals.
“It was really awesome as I’d never seen a flyover before, and so it was very exciting to see for the first time,” Minnie Wilson, a physician’s assistant at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, said. “It’s really flattering that they appreciate us that much because I feel like they do so much for our country. It makes the job a little more special.”
“The teams next flew the short route to Washington, D.C., flying over the National Mall and the U.S. Capitol building. Their route also took them over northern Virginia just west of the Nation’s Capital.
In a patriotic salute, the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels flew shoulder-to-shoulder past the Washington Monument. They then flew easterly down the Mall to more cheers from spectators.
The jets were then fed more fuel during aerial refueling from four KC-10s. The two teams and a chase aircraft pilots also took a short break for a snack.
Sunny skies greeted the flight teams over metro Atlanta as they arrived at 1:34 p.m. Crowds gathered in downtown Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park to witness the rare joint flyovers.
The two squadrons will perform more flyovers next week, however the two teams maybe flying separately. The cover more ground, the teams could fly over separately locations in the southeast.
(Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)