America Strong – My Timeline to the First Big Event in the Northeast

200428-F-VJ293-1530

The United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” and U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron “Blue Angels” fly in formation together over the Eastern Seaboard, April 28, 2020. The Thunderbirds and Blue Angels performed a flyover together that was part of America Strong; a collaborative salute from the Air Force and Navy to recognize healthcare workers, first responders, military, and other essential personnel while standing in solidarity with all Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cory W. Bush)

APRIL 19th
I actually picked up on this when I saw a C-17 departing Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst with the callsign TBIRD 14. The flight went to Nellis AFB and was joined by a Joint Base Charleston C-17 utilizing the callsign TBIRD 15. There were rumors that the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels would be involved in some sort of National Flyover mission.

Airmen from the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, Thunderbirds, flew over New York City, Newark, Trenton and Philadelphia in honor of frontline COVID-19 responders and essential workers April 28, 2020. The flyovers are a part of America Strong; a collaborative salute from the Air Force and Navy to recognize healthcare workers, first responders, military, and other essential personnel while standing in solidarity with all Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Maj. Ray Geoffroy)

APRIL 20th
A JB MDL KC-10, callsign HOIST 83 departed McGuire towards Nellis AFB and dragged the Thunderbirds to NAS Pensacola. Listening to the Nellis tower comms the controller cleared Thunderbird 1 to destination airport. Thunderbird 1 responded, “Cleared to Pensacola”. They were soon joined by TBIRD 14 and 15. Later in the afternoon both TBIRD 14 and 15 returned empty to their home bases.

The United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” and U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron “Blue Angels” fly in formation together over the Eastern Seaboard, April 28, 2020. The Thunderbirds and Blue Angels performed a flyover together that was part of America Strong; a collaborative salute from the Air Force and Navy to recognize healthcare workers, first responders, military, and other essential personnel while standing in solidarity with all Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cory W. Bush)

APRIL 21st

An email attributed to Philadelphia ATCT that the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds would be performing a flyover of the greater Philadelphia area on April 22nd surfaced igniting a wildfire of speculation. While the times and route would eventually prove correct, the altitudes and date were not.

The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds begin joint training along the beaches of Pensacola.

APRIL 22nd
A photo of the Thunderbirds utilizing red and blue smoke emerged on the internet and created a firestorm if speculation. Many different sources had to post publicly that this was not happening, but stayed tuned for more information coming.

On the possibility of a joint flyby, an Air Force official remained non-committal, but said joint training exercises were taking place. “The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds arrived at Naval Air Station Pensacola on (Monday) to conduct joint training with the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, in preparation for potential future operations. The team’s periodically conduct joint exchanges in order to enhance their mission safety and promote best practices. More information will be released when it becomes available.”

APRIL 23rd

News of a flyover is released, but it is from Barksdale AFB not the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds. Two B-52’s to conduct a flyover of Louisiana Health Care Workers at some of the states’ Medical Centers on April 24th.

APRIL 24th
Official word is released of Operation America Strong with flyovers of Newark NJ, New York City NY, Trenton NJ and Philadelphia PA on April 28th.

APRIL 27th
Flight plan maps are released for Newark and New York as well Trenton and Philadelphia.

TBIRD 14 and 15 return to NAS Pensacola.

Photos of the four KC-10A Extenders that enabled the schedule on April 28th to be flown. The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds made a round-robin flight from/to NAS Pensacola via New York City and Philadelphia using a high-low-high-low-high flight profile.

APRIL 28th

0840 hours, a flight of four KC-10’s using call signs HOIST 81-84 depart JB MDL for a waypoint above Covington Municipal Airport (KCVC) in Georgia, approximately 32 miles east of Atlanta.

0920 hours, Blue Angels live stream the team firing up the F/A-18 Legacy Hornets. BA#7 was utilized in place of BA#2. Must have been a last minute switch as it displayed #7 on the tail.

0942 hours, Thunderbird 1 receives take-off clearance from KNPA.

The United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” fly over New York City, New York, April 28, 2020. The flyover was part of America Strong; a collaborative salute from the Air Force and Navy to recognize healthcare workers, first responders, military, and other essential personnel while standing in solidarity with all Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cory W. Bush)

An F/A-18 Hornet assigned to the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron “Blue Angels” approaches a KC-10 Extender assigned to the 305th Air Mobility Squadron from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., April 28, 2020. The Blue Angels conducted a joint flyover with the U.S. Air Force Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” as part of #AmericaStrong, an effort to honor healthcare workers, first responders and other essential personnel who are working on the front lines to combat COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jake Carter)

The United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” fly over the Eastern Seaboard, April 28, 2020. The flyover was part of America Strong; a collaborative salute from the Air Force and Navy to recognize healthcare workers, first responders, military, and other essential personnel while standing in solidarity with all Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cory W. Bush)

1011 hours, HOIST Flight arrives over KCVC and begins to turn north / northeast overflying Athens Georgia, Greenville / Spartanburg South Carolina, Roanoke Virginia, Charlottesville Virginia where they turned northeast crossing south of Washington DC and Annapolis Maryland . The flight proceeded over Middletown Delaware before crossing into New Jersey and following the New Jersey Turnpike. As they approached Hamilton New Jersey I was able to look up and see the four KC-10’s approaching with as many as four fighters each in trail. Several had a fighters on the boom and drogue. They continued north to Old Bridge New Jersey where they turned east and entered into a refueling track around New York Harbor by 1155 hours.

© Mike Colaner – his photo of the two teams enroute during the April 28th Flyovers.

1345 hours, the flyover was to start at Trenton NJ. Just then the teams were spotted overhead still refueling at 20,000 feet. at 1357 hours the teams began to fly up the Delaware River past Trenton and turning over Washington’s crossing where General George Washington crossed the Delaware to defeat the Hessians at Trenton. The teams flew the suburbs of Trenton before heading south to Philadelphia.

HOIST Flight awaited the teams while they over fly Philadelphia over southern Delaware. The teams were dragged as far as Spartanburg South Carolina before departing on their own for NAS Pensacola.

I would like to thank the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds for a shining moment when America needed it most. Also I would like to send a special recognition to all of the maintainers and Air Force crews who moved the teams and gear as well as the tankers who made the mission possible. Thank you all!

Mike

(April 28, 2020) The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, and U.S. Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, honored frontline COVID-19 first responders and essential workers with formation flights over New York City, New Jersey and Philadelphia on April 28, 2020. Video by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cody Hendrix 

“The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.”

Editor’s note: On May 13th, Mike caught another flyover – the 514 Air Mobility Wing based at Joint Base McGuire – Dix – Lakehurst composed of a KC-10A Extender and C-17A Globemaster III. Here’s what he saw:

C-17A Flyover:

KC-10 Flyover:

www.optharmony.com


https://www.resolutionrentals.com/


Mike Colaner

Mike Colaner is a native of Central New Jersey and still resides there today with his family. I always had a fascination with aviation with both NAS Lakehurst and McGuire Air Force Base nearby to my boyhood home. Upon graduating High School, I went to work for Piasecki Aircraft Corporation at NAEC Lakehurst. I worked in the engineering department on the PA-97 Helistat project as a draftsman. I soon enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served four years active duty with both the 2nd Marine Division and 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. After completing my enlistment, I went to college and became a New Jersey State Trooper. I recently retired after serving 25 years and I am looking for my next adventure. I am very glad that I have been able to join this team and to share my passion with all of you.

You may also like...

No Comments allowed
error: Content is protected !!