Thunderbirds, Blue Angels Kick Off ‘America Strong’ Tour with Tri-State Area Flyovers

The Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels soared over New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania on April 28 in two sky-high salutes to the first responders and U.S. troops on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as essential employees keeping the nation going during the new coronavirus crisis.

The flyovers marked the beginning of the “America Strong” tour, during which the military services’ premiere demonstration teams are criss-crossing the country to honor these everyday heroes.

The teams took off from Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., before undertaking the pair of flyovers.

The Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds take off from Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., on April 28, 2020, for flyovers of New York City, Philadelphia, Pa., and Trenton and Newark, N.J., as part of the “America Strong” tour. Video by Chief Petty Officer Chad Pritt/U.S. Navy

The first was over Newark, N.J., and New York City—the focal point of the pandemic within the United States. The second was over Trenton, N.J., and Philadelphia, Pa.

At least one hospital in New York City took to social media to express its gratitude for the gesture and share footage of the flight.

An Army National Guard photographer captured shots of the Thunderbirds as they soared over University Hospital in Newark, N.J.

U.S. Army Pfc. Miranda Ray, 50th Chemical Company, New Jersey Army National Guard, takes a picture during a flyover at University Hospital in Newark, N.J., April 28, 2020. Photo: Spc. Michael Schwenk/Army National Guard
The Thunderbirds fly in formation over University Hospital in Newark, N.J., on April 28, 2020. Photo: Spc. Michael Schwenk/Army National Guard

And Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. shared footage of the teams’ flight over the city of Newark, which the county said had 5,158 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 370 deaths from the virus as of the same morning.

The teams also made it a point to travel over area monuments, including the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds honored frontline COVID-19 responders and essential workers with a formation flight over New York City on April 28, 2020. Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brendan Fitzgerald/U.S. Navy

The Thunderbirds announced their tentative flight paths for the tri-state area appearance via Twitter the day prior.

However, the demonstration teams are largely keeping details of their upcoming tour stops vague—save for which cities are still on deck—so as to prevent aviation lovers from defying social distancing guidelines to gaze at the spectacle. They also incorporated distancing-related reminders into the flight-path graphics.

With airshows largely cancelled, the America Strong tour also offers the teams’ pilots a prime opportunity to keep their flight hours current.

But they’re not alone.

Since news of the “America Strong” tour was first reported by the Washington Post, Air Force organizations across the country—including the F-35 Demonstration Team—have announced planned flyovers of their own.

These included an April 27 event in which F-16s from the South Carolina Air National Guard’s 169th Fighter Wing flew over 60-plus of the state’s medical centers.

“This series of flyovers, originating from McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina, is part of the U.S. Air Force’s Operation AMERICAN RESOLVE to show appreciation to the thousands of heroes on the front lines, battling COVID-19 with the intent to lift morale in cities across America,” the wing wrote.

And on April 28, a B-2 Spirit, T-38 Talons, and A-10s from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., flew over three Kansas City-area hospitals.

You can see the flight path, as outlined in an April 27 Facebook post from the base, below:

The #WhitemanSalutesKC flyover flight plan is ready! Check out the graphic below to see where and when our B-2 Spirit,…Posted by Whiteman Air Force Base on Monday, April 27, 2020

Upcoming flyovers include:

  • April 30: USAF’s F-35 Demonstration Team and Hill Air Force Base’s 388th Fighter Wing will join forces for the “Utah Strong Flyover,” the team announced in an April 27 tweet. The flight path and times are to be announced, the tweet said.
  • May 1: The 56th Fighter Wing, the 944th Fighter Wing, and the Arizona National Guard’s 161st Air Refueling Wing will conduct a joint flyover that will include seven F-35As and seven F-16s from Luke Air Force Base, and a KC-135 from the 161st ARW, according to a 944th FW Facebook post.

Watch the skies this Friday as Luke Air Force Base shows our support for our Arizona front line COVID-19 responders with…Posted by 944th Fighter Wing Air Force Reserve Luke AFB on Tuesday, April 28, 2020