Last week, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the Air Force's Thunderbirds honored health care workers and others on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic by flying over cities in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to deliver a special kind of "thank you" for their service. The elite flight demonstration squads showed off their talent in the skies above Newark and New York City first before they flew over Trenton and Philadelphia. Residents flooded social media with videos and thanked them for the show of appreciation.
The squads included six Air Force F-16C/D Fighting Falcons and six F-18 C/D Hornets flying over New York City and Trenton at noon Tuesday, reports NPR. Next, they headed to Trenton and Philadelphia. Since then, the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds have continued flying over major cities across the county so the military can show their support for those putting their lives on the line.
"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, Thunderbird 1 and mission commander for the flyover, said in a statement on April 26. "We hope to give Americans a touching display of American resolve that honors those serving on the frontline of our fight with COVID-19."
An amazing display of gratitude and patriotism from the best pilots on earth.
Thank you. pic.twitter.com/vAk8NZyReE— Shereef Elnahal, MD (@ShereefElnahal) April 28, 2020
"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," Cmdr. Brian Kesselring, U.S. Navy Blue Angels commanding officer and flight leader, added. "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."
The flights were the first part of the "America Strong" showcase, which the Department of Defense hopes will bring Americans together during ths time of crisis. However, there was some trepidation about the idea, as there were fears the flyovers could inspire more people to go out and ignore social distancing guidelines. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney tweeted a reminder to continue social distancing while watching outside.
Cockpit footage from the Blue Angels flight over New York City pic.twitter.com/feBIqgUTxA— Dave Brown (@dave_brown24) April 28, 2020
"We could probably use the money on something else rather than personnel and equipment use," Kenney told KYW of the flights. "But I'm not going to turn something positive into a negative. I hope people enjoy the flyover. I love looking at those planes myself."
U.S. Navy Blue Angels, Air Force Thunderbirds fly over New York City area to pay tribute to first responders on the front lines of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. https://t.co/E0JdKnbfFZ pic.twitter.com/WnCr4VadO6— ABC News (@ABC) April 28, 2020
The next "America Strong" showcase is scheduled for Wednesday. The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds will fly over Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and New Orleans. Over the weekend, there was a joint flyover in Washington, D.C.