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, Los Angeles and Washington State — with more flyovers planned for other areas.
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-World War II 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force performed one of the first flypasts in 1913 when they honored King George V.