LOS ANGELES — The Air Force Thunderbirds returned to the skies over California on Friday to perform a series of flyovers as they continue to salute the medical workers and employees on the frontlines of Covid19.
America’s Ambassadors in Blue performed flights across several medical facilities and hospitals over San Diego and north to Carlsbad. The squadron then aerial refueled before continuing on to flyover Los Angeles.
The six F-16 Fighting Falcon jets departed their home near Las Vegas at 11 a.m. PDT, to begin the short trip to southern California. A seventh F-16 also took-off with the team to provide ATC support and aerial photography.
“It is an honor for our team to salute the countless Californians who have committed to keeping the communities safe during this difficult time in our nation,” Thunderbirds flight leader Lt Col John Caldwell said on Thursday. “We hope to give onlookers a touching display of American resolve that honors those serving on the frontline our fight against COVID-19.”
The Thunderbirds skirted along the U.S.-Mexico boarder before turning north toward San Diego at 12 p.m. Beautiful weather around San Diego greeted the flight squadron.
Flying away from northern San Diego, the Thunderbirds grabbed some jet fuel out over the Pacific waters. A KC-10 Extender from Travis AFB provided the aerial refueling for the seven aircraft.
The Thunderbirds later resumed their America Strong flyover as the entered Los Angeles airspace at 1:35 p.m. Flying north over the City of Angels, they made an aerial loop flying west and then south down the coastline before heading east.
As the six jets and chase aircraft flew over Long Beach at 1:52 p.m., something unusual happened. Thunderbird 6 Capt. Kyle Oliver was forced to break right and away from the tight delta formation for a few seconds. He then rejoined with no issue.
Video from Los Angeles ABC7 showed the jets flutter a second prior to Capt. Oliver’s break away. The effect forced the team’s route to change slightly.
“Due to the unexpected high concentration of air traffic, the (Thunderbirds) pilots had to modify the flight path during the flyover to ensure operational and public safety,” Thunderbirds public affairs officer Capt. Remoshay Nelson told AvGeekery.com. “It was because of unexpected traffic.”
After aerial refueling with the KC-10 for a third time within four hours, the KC-10 returned to Travis AFB. The Thunderbirds, meanwhile, continued to for one final five minute flyover — from Thousand Oaks to Santa Clara.
(Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)