A formation of U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will honor first responders on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic by flying over New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania Tuesday afternoon.
The military’s elite flight teams will fly over New York City, Newark, Trenton and Philadelphia to salute healthcare workers, first responders, military and other essential workers.
“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, said in a news release.”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 coordinated flyover will begin over Newark and New York City around noon and will last for 35 minutes before moving on to Trenton for 10 minutes and Philadelphia for 20 minutes. Residents are encouraged to watch the flyover from their yards or porches and to avoid gathering in groups, officials said.
According to a map of the flyover, the flight teams will leave Join Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Burlington County at 1:45 p.m. and then fly west over Levittown, then head north, then back east over Hopewell, Ewing and Trenton before heading north over the Interstate 95 corridor, then south over the Route 1 corridor in Plainsboro, West Windsor, Lawrence, and Trenton.
The show is one of several multi-city flyovers that will be conducted in the next two weeks in areas of the country hit hardest by the coronavirus. The military is calling the collaborative salute “America Strong.”
“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 news release.”We hope to give Americans a touching display of American resolve that honors those serving on the frontline of our fight with COVID-19.
President Donald Trump announced the airshows at a press briefing on April 22, saying the planes would fly over America’s major cities and some of the cities that aren’t major cities. “They’re going to be doing a lot of work, a lot of very dangerous flying. It’s dangerous, you know, the odds when you start going at massive speeds and you are 18 inches away from each other. It’s dangerous work. It’s incredible what they are able to do.”
Trump said the airshows are meant to pay tribute to frontline workers. He compared them to warriors fighting a battle. He also said the air shows are a signal to residents to remain vigilant during the outbreak, adding that the U.S. always wins wars of every kind. “We want to win. We always win. Sometimes we don’t want to win so we just go to a standstill, but that’s not the way this country works,” he said. “I want to see those shows. I’ve seen them many times and I can’t get enough of them.”
While many people are excited about the flyovers, they have also drawn criticism. Some people say the airshows encourage people to gather outside in groups, potentially spreading the virus, while others questioned whether the airshows are money well spent, and say the government should instead be focused on buying PPE and building testing capacity. “Are they going to drop COVID tests on our beleaguered cities?” asked one person on Twitter.