In a stunning piece of news, the nation-wide series of flyovers that we first discussed on Monday was confirmed by President Trump today during a White House press conference. The US Navy Blue Angels and the US Air Force Thunderbirds are preparing for what is being called Operation America Strong. Flyovers of cities across the country will take place over the next few weeks in what Pentagon officials are reportedly calling a “non-partisan show of resolve”.
This confirms the core of the leaked schedule posted to social media on Sunday, which listed out flyovers by both teams, including several joint appearances. Exact cities and dates are not yet confirmed, so it appears to be an early draft.
Since our previous post, both teams were spotted flying together over Pensacola, where the Blue Angels are based. A draft air traffic control bulletin leaked and sparked wider rumors of an East Coast flyover today, prompting the Blue Angels to state publicly that they have no flyovers planned and that 48 hours notice would be given if any flyovers did get planned.
It now seems apparent that the flyovers are being planned, but are not necessarily finalized. Organizing these flights is an even more massive task than many realize, down to coordinating aerial refueling to prevent stopovers at bases along the way. Just one day of flyovers is rumored to require at least four KC-10 tankers to escort the teams and their 14 combined jets. The military is also very conscious of discouraging travel and large gatherings.
Where will the teams be flying? Here’s the list of cities that was original leaked online. It seems likely that these will be included in the final plan, but we emphasize that these are not yet confirmed. Each group of cities would likely represent a day of flying.
Joint East Coast Flyover Part 1
Joint East Coast Flyover Part 2
- Washington D.C.
Thunderbirds Southwest Flyover
- New Orleans
- Oklahoma City
Blue Angels Southeast Flyover
Blue Angels Midwest Flyover
Thunderbirds Southern California Flyover
- San Diego
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
Blue Angels Hampton Roads Flyover
- Virginia Beach
Thunderbirds Pacific Northwest Flyover
Joint Texas Flyover
- Kingsville / Corpus Christi
- San Antonio
Other areas may be added. An article in the Washington Post, which seems based on a memo given to them prior to the press conference, says that other military units may participate in areas not covered by the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels. Bombers and other units may conduct flybys of their home states as part of training missions, for example.
One more piece of stunning news arrived around the same time as the press conference – the Thunderbirds have been spotted trailing blue and red colored smoke over Pensacola! Foreign jet teams frequently inject colored dye into their smoke trails to paint their national colors across the sky. The US teams have used them in the past, but have since rejected the idea citing additional maintenance and technical challenges. It seems they may be trying to work out the kinks before taking the show on the road; we’ll see if it sticks around.
Stay tuned here on our blog and in our forums as we bring you more details about this very unusual story!