Health care workers, first responders and other essential employees working on the front lines of the coronavirus fight in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania will be greeted with a booming “Thank You” early Tuesday afternoon.
The military’s elite flight demonstration squadrons — the Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds — are flying in what is being called “a collaborative salute” to honor those battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 12 fighter jets, six of the Air Force’s F-16C/D Fighting Falcons and half a dozen F-18 C/D Hornets — will streak over New York City and Newark starting at noon ET, before heading to Trenton, N.J., and Philadelphia.
“We are truly excited to take to the skies with our Navy counterparts for a nation-wide tribute to the men and women keeping our communities safe,” U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Caldwell, who serves as Thunderbird 1 and mission commander for the flyover, said in a statement.
“We are incredibly honored to have the opportunity to salute those working on the frontline of the COVID-19 response, we are in awe of your strength and resilience,” said Cmdr. Brian Kesselring, U.S. Navy Blue Angels commanding officer and flight leader.
“Thank you to all of those in essential industries keeping our nation moving forward. We will get through this. We are all in this together,” he added.
The military said the formation flyovers over New York and Newark will last roughly 35 minutes beginning at noon. Flight demonstrations over Trenton will begin at approximately 1:45 p.m. and last about 10 minutes. Philadelphia residents will be treated to a 20-minute demonstration that will start around 2 p.m.
The Navy and Air Force urge people in the flight path to watch the jets from the safety of their homes and maintain proper social distancing protocols.
The military adds spectators should “refrain from traveling to landmarks, hospitals and gathering in large groups to view the flyover.”
This was echoed by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney who tweeted, “Please stay safe if you choose to peek outside to catch the display. Continue to follow social distancing guidelines.”
Philadelphia-based radio station KYW reports that some, including the Philadelphia mayor, are also a little concerned about devoting resources to a flyover salute during a global pandemic.
“We could probably use the money on something else rather than personnel and equipment use,” Kenney said to KYW. “But I’m not going to turn something positive into a negative. I hope people enjoy the fly over. I love looking at those planes myself.”
The Department Defense says that while the “America Strong” showcase is intended to bring Americans together to fight the spread of the coronavirus, it also serves as an important training opportunity for both the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds.
“Pilots must execute a minimum number of flight hours to maintain proficiency,” according to a joint statement from the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force. “These flyovers will incur no additional cost to taxpayers.”
It added the multicity flyovers will be conducted “over areas of the country hardest hit by COVID-19” over the next two weeks.