Feature   Defense News

Military Flyovers Thank Americans for Service to Country

May 15, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the Defense Department has been providing medical and logistical assistance to frontline health care workers throughout the United States.

DOD has also demonstrated gratitude to health care workers by conducting flyovers in many cities and states throughout the U.S. — including Detroit, New York City, Chicago, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Washington state — with more flyovers planned for Los Angeles today and other areas.

An airplane banks into a turn.
Albany Flyover
A New York Air National Guard LC-130 airplane assigned to the 109th Airlift Wing flies over Albany, N.Y., May 12, 2020. The flyover saluted COVID-19 health care workers, first responders, military service members, and other essential personnel. The 109th Airlift Wing is based at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, N.Y.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Gabriel Enders
VIRIN: 200512-Z-ZZ999-0001

A flyover includes jets, transports and helicopters flying over an area to honor people or to commemorate important events such as the anniversaries of the World War II Allies' victories over Nazi Germany and Japan.

On May 8, a mix of Air Force aircraft and vintage World War II and post-WWII planes flew over Seattle, Tacoma and other areas of northwest Washington state to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day and to honor health care workers.

A parachutist lands in a field in Austin, Texas.
Army Jumper
Army Futures Command hosted “Thank You, Austin,” an event to celebrate the command’s first anniversary on July 22, 2019 at the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Austin, Texas. The celebration included performances by the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team. There was also a flyover of Army Black Hawk helicopters.
Photo By: Luke J. Allen, Army
VIRIN: 190722-A-HE309-114
Jets fly over a city with many tall buildings.
Blue Angels Flyover
The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, honors frontline COVID-19 first responders and essential workers with formation flights over Chicago, May 12, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Lt. j.g. Chelsea Dietlin
VIRIN: 200512-N-ZW241-1356

Four of the services have dedicated demonstration teams that perform flyovers. In 1946, the Navy and Marine Corps formed the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron known as the Blue Angels. The Air Force followed with its Air Demonstration Squadron — the Thunderbirds — in 1953. Later, the Army formed its Golden Knights Army Parachute Team in 1959.

In addition to these demonstration teams, the National Guard, Coast Guard and the other services have also conducted flyovers to honor health care workers and commemorate special occasions.

Aircraft fly over a large river and city.
Coast Guard Flyover
Three Coast Guard aircraft perform a flyover for the President's Salute to America over Washington, D.C., July 4, 2019. The flyover included an MH-65 Dolphin, an MH-60 Jayhawk and an HC-144 Ocean Sentry.
Photo By: Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeffrey M. Berry
VIRIN: 190704-G-G0105-1171

Flyovers are part of America's heritage. One of the first flyovers was during Game 1 of baseball’s first World Series played between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs at Comiskey Park in Chicago on Sept. 5, 1918. Army biplanes buzzed the field to the delight of spectators.

One of the largest flyovers was conducted Sept. 2, 1945, during the World War II surrender ceremony of Japan aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, when numerous squadrons of carrier-based fighter aircraft flew overhead.

Hundreds of World War II-era aircraft fly over a large ship.
Tokyo Bay Flyover
Navy planes fly over the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Sept. 2, 1945, to commemorate the signing of surrender documents by Japan.
Photo By: Courtesy National Archives
VIRIN: 450902-O-ZZ999-001

Demonstration teams also perform flyovers at major sporting events, including football, baseball and NASCAR.

Timing is everything, though. If a flyover is planned at the end of the national anthem, for example, the pilots need to know when the anthem will be played or sung so they can program their position, navigation and timing instruments to fly over the area at the precise moment. Pilots also communicate with a controller on the ground in case the anthem is delayed or happens sooner than planned.

A jet is refueled in midair.
Thunderbird Refueling
An Air Force Reserve KC-10 Extender with 78th Air Refueling Squadron, 514th Air Mobility Wing, refuels a Thunderbird jet with the Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron during the America Strong event near Baltimore, Md., May 2, 2020. The 76th and 78th Air Refueling Squadrons refueled the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels several times so they could perform their scheduled flyovers above Washington, Baltimore, and Atlanta without any need to land. The flyover was a salute by the Air Force and Navy to recognize health care workers, first responders, military service members, and other essential personnel while standing in solidarity with all Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Sean Evans
VIRIN: 200502-F-DV652-1016

Allies and partners around the world also perform flyovers. The United Kingdom's Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Indian Air Force call their flyovers flypasts.

The UK's Royal Air Force performed one of the first flypasts in 1913 when they honored King George V.