“The DoD Salute To America 2020”



Report From Dobbs Ferry, New York  by Bill Sarama on July 7, 2020

Photos from various Flyover cities

I never knew anything about it!  Not a thing!  Thank you Ken Kula for sending out the US Northern Command Press Release No. 20-015 just as soon as you got it on Thursday afternoon, July 2nd. The Reporter Crew at PhotoRecon.net received an announcement of a last minute approval by SecDef Esper that allowed the USAF and the USMC to support and participate in a big military flyover of four major cities in the Northeast late in the afternoon on Saturday, July 4th. Like WOW!  What a surprise.  For all of us Plane-Chasers who have been grounded all summer with no air shows to go to, to satisfy our Aviation Dependency to find any kind of an airplane adrenaline rush.  With all shows shut down because of the Covid-19 Pandemic, this was outstanding news!  For some of us this would be the second “Air Show” in these trying times in New York,  the first one being when the two military demonstration team’s did their  “Salute to the NYC Corona Virus Pandemic Medical Workers” flyover back on March 28th, when the “Blues” and the “Birds” joined up in a two-abreast formation flight down the Hudson River, and then did multiple passes around New York City to salute our Heroes — the brave Doctors, Nurses and EMS Workers who were treating all the severely ill from  the Covid-19 pandemic.

Press Release from U.S. Northern Command:

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Secretary Esper approved a Department of the Interior request for DOD support to the 2020 Salute to America. DOD will provide aerial, musical and ceremonial support to this year’s celebration in Washington, D.C. This year’s support will also include a flyover of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, as well an aerial salute to several cities that played roles in the American Revolution.

The highlight of this year’s celebration will be our salute to the Great Cities of the American Revolution. The flyovers will begin in Boston and proceed to New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore. From there they will join other Department of Defense and heritage aircraft in the Salute to America over our nation’s capital. In all, roughly 1,700 service members will support the celebrations.

The aircraft are scheduled to overfly each of the cities, beginning at approximately 4:00 pm, then fly on to the next city. U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps jets will fly over in five waves. The flyovers will be led by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, followed by B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers, F-15 and F-22 fighters and U.S. Marine Corps F-35 fighters.

BOSTON: The aircraft are scheduled to overfly the center of the city at approximately 4:00 pm approaching from the northeast at 1,000 feet above the ground. Multiple aircraft will overfly the U.S.S. Constitution and then proceed over Fenway Park before departing the city. 

NEW YORK: The aircraft are scheduled to fly down the Hudson River at approximately 5:00 pm and pass just east of the Statue of Liberty. 

PHILADELPHIA: The aircraft are scheduled to overfly the center of the city at approximately 5:15 pm approaching from the northeast at 1,000 feet above the ground. Multiple aircraft will fly over Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell and then proceed southwest out of the city. 

BALTIMORE: The aircraft are scheduled to overfly Fort McHenry at approximately 5:30 pm approaching from the northeast at 1,000 feet above the ground. Multiple aircraft will overfly Fort McHenry before turning south out of the city. 

The flyovers provide an opportunity for DOD to demonstrate the capabilities and professionalism of the United States Armed Forces. Flying hours are a sunk cost for the Department of Defense, and these aircraft and crews would be using these hours for proficiency and training at other locations if they were not conducting these flyovers.

DOD is proud to help celebrate the nation’s 244th birthday. We are grateful for our nation’s support as we defend our country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

U.S. Northern Command
U.S. Northern Command Public Affairs

Today, this “Air Show” was going to be very different and bigger for the 4th of July, but not as big as that gigantic flyover scheduled for later that night in Washington, DC. That was a big deal if you saw the full one hour excellent aviation coverage live on Fox. This flyover was going to be for the four cities in the Northeast, eventually joining up with the Big Show over the Washington Mall at 6:00 that night. The Northeast show was to be officially called the “Salute To The Great Cities Of The American Revolution”!  The Flyover would begin in Boston and proceed south to New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore and finally join up with the big Flyover in Washington. That DC flyover would start with WW2 warbirds, then planes from the Korean Conflict, then Vietnam War planes, then planes from our subsequent wars, and would finally conclude with most of our most current USAF military aircraft.

The northeast flyover was going to be a perfect example of detailed military mission planning and exact “TOT’s” – Time On Target Nav Hits.  DOD announced that the whole thing in the Northeast was actually considered a training mission and as such, no special funding would be required.  The first “Hit” was to be Boston, with aircraft hitting (so to speak) Fenway Park at 4:00 PM. Then the “Strike Package” was to go south to New York and be on top of the Statue of Liberty at 5:00 PM. Then it was on to Philly, overflying Independence Hall exactly at 5:15 PM (a pretty aggressive flight plan) and then on to Baltimore with a planned overflight of Fort McHenry in the Harbor at exactly 5:30 PM. Then they were to head south again to be slotted into the Big DC Show at about 6:30 after what I would assume would be a sequencing hold pattern in one of the nearby DC MOA’s.  I’ll bet they planned to hit a tanker or two to top off before they joined the DC Parade. The Northeast New York Flyover lineup was to be actually in seven “Waves” as the DOD Release described it:  1) USAF Thunderbirds F-16 “Vipers” leading the trail; 2) USAF F-15 “Eagles”;  3) USAF F-22 “Raptors”;   4) USMC F-35 “Lightning II’s”;  5) a B-1B “Bone” bomber; 6) a B-2A “Spirit” Stealth bomber;  and 7) a B-52H “Superfortress” bomber. Or so it was supposed to be…..

I live in Lower Westchester County New York, not too far from New York City. With the “Covids” still running around in New York, I made the tactical decision to continue avoiding going into the City. I decided my best observation point was to be Dobbs Ferry on the Hudson River, which is a five mile drive due west from my house. If the “Strike Package” was to hit the Statue of Liberty at exactly 5:00 PM, they would have to be over my position in Dobbs Ferry (actually flying over the centerline of the Hudson River) at least by 4:55 PM, allowing 5 minutes for them to travel the 24.9 miles from here to the Statue of Liberty.  I assumed their “IP” (navigation Initial Point) would be the Tappen Zee Bridge, an easily distinguishable landmark feature. But that was still a guess since their IP on hitting the Hudson could end up being below my position which would eliminate my hope of seeing any airplanes at all today.  That’s what happened with the “Jet Blue Tribute Flyover” in May when four Jet Blue A-320’s in a tight trail hit the River at Spuyten Duyvil at the northern tip of Manhattan way south of here. The planes became mere dots on my 10 x 50’s that day!

So I headed down a steep hill to the River’s edge near the Dobbs Ferry RR Station at exactly 4:00 PM to give myself a lot of time.  I went to the lot of a real nice restaurant on the River called “Half Moon” (NB: “Half Moon” was the name of the sailing ship used by the Dutch Captain Henry Hudson in September 1609 when he initially explored the Hudson River!). I told the cop I was going in for a drink which allowed me to park right next to the River by the restaurant.  Well, since I was early for the Flyover, I really had no choice but to go to their beautiful outdoor Tiki Bar, slip off my Surgical Mask and have a chilled Gin and Tonic with Lime as I waited for the inbound Thunderbirds. It was 90 degrees so why not!

I relocated to my “Take Position and Hold” spot right on the rocky edge of the Hudson River, 10 x 50’s in hand, looking for the first sight to the north of the famed “Thunderbirds”. Actually no one outdoors at the restaurant even knew this flyover was even going to be happening!  One guy next to me (6 feet away of course!) said he works for DOD and got a DOD email that said that the formation was to depart Boston and fly a straight line west to White Plains about 6 miles to the northeast of me, then hit the River at the Tappan Zee Bridge for their IP left turn point south down the centerline of the River to New York. So my location was perfect!  But the Aircraft Package was late. The Thunderbirds first crossed my position at 5:10 PM. All sections were in-trail behind the Birds. Disappointingly, they were up very high – I’d say over 6,000 feet – and moving very fast. And a setting sun put all aircraft in a black silhouette.

The Thunderbirds came in first with their four-ship Diamond. Right behind were the two solos in a 2-abreast. Next in line were four F-15 “Eagles” in a loose Finger-Four. Then we had the B-2A “Spirit” Stealth bomber flanked by four F-22A “Raptor” fighters, two on each wing.  Next in trail was the B-1B “Bone” Lancer bomber with its wings partially swept back, flanked by four USMC F-35C “Lightning II” Marine Stealth fighters, again two on each wing.


Finally, a 58 year old classic, the venerable B-52H “Startofortress” bomber coming in as Tail-End Charlie for the in-trail lineup, going a little slower for its age but still an impressive piece of Heavy Metal for the folks down in New York City to look at today. I assume that as they got closer to Manhattan, the flyover package would drop down to a lower altitude to give the locals down-river something better to look at. But maybe not. The Hudson River is controlled air space with separate assigned altitudes for fixed wing GA light aircraft and a reserved separate flight level for helicopters/rotorcraft, so maybe they still stayed high for safety. Back at my location, amazingly not many of the outdoor diners today at the “Half Moon” even bothered to look up…….except for the DOD guy standing six feet away from me!!! I need a REAL AIR SHOW!

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