NEW YORK — The thunder of nineteen military aircraft from the United States and Great Britain performed a close formation flight down the Hudson River on Thursday concluding with a patriotic flyby salute of the Statue of Liberty.
Separated by mere feet, the tandem flight of six Air Force Thunderbirds jets were followed by the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows’ nine-jet delta. Twin F-22A Raptors and two F-35A Lightning IIs formed a dark diamond over the skyline’s blue sky.
Minutes later, the gap between the Thunderbirds and the Red Arrows opened as the two jet teams went smoke-on. White vapor trails streamed from the first, while red, white, and blue vapor streaked from behind the latter.
During the formation, Red Arrow 10 flew as the chase aircraft, photographing the jets from different angles. It was also the 20th aircraft over the Hudson. RAF pilot Adam Collins maneuvered his aircraft over and around the planes to allow SAC Rose Buchanan to capture several stunning shots from the back seat.
“It’s certainly a history making flight,” New York Airshow spokesperson Chris Dirato said on Thursday. “It was exciting to see these teams make their way down and back up the Hudson River, while passing the Statue of Liberty. Talk about a great photo opportunity!”
The formal formation began at 9:30 a.m. EDT, and lasted nearly 15 minutes. Each jet team is in the New York City area to perform at a nearby air show this week.
The Red Arrows will join the Navy’s Blue Angels to headline this weekend’s New York Airshow from Stewart Airport in Newburgh. The Blue Angels’ six-jet delta formation was scheduled to fly over the Hudson, however the squadron had to back out Wednesday “due to operational requirements”.
“The (Hudson) flight was a terrific preview of this weekend’s New York International Air Show,” Dirato added. “We’re excited that the RAF Red Arrows will be performing. They are considered one of the world’s premier aerobatic display teams, so we’re honored to be one of only a handful of air shows in the U.S. to host them.”
(Charles Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)