B-2 Spirit Flyover in California Honors Hero. Does It Suggest a Change in Alert Status too?
Parade goers celebrating the new year at the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 2018 were treated to a magnificent display of state-of-the-art U.S. Air Force airpower when two F-35A Lightning IIs and a B-2 Spirit made a spectacular flyover of the parade route.
The Rose Parade flyover honored USAF Major Benjamin “Chex” Meier, a USAF F-16 pilot who flew combat missions over Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and received the Air Force Medal. Major Meier was also assigned to the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron as an F-35A Lighting II pilot at Edwards Air Force Base. The flyover not only memorializes Major Benjamin Meier, who died in a non-aviation related accident while running on base at Edwards on September 28, 2015, it also acknowledges his heroic legacy from his wishes to donate his heart, lungs, liver and kidneys after his death to save the lives of five people awaiting organ transplants. Major Meier is survived by his wife and two sons. The two F-35As that participated in today’s flyover were from Major Meier’s former unit, the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron.
Without reading too much into the beautiful memorial flyover held in splendid weather in Pasadena, it is worth noting that a recent planned B-2 flyover at the 2017 Aviation Nation Air & Space Expo at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, just 52 days prior to the traditional Pasadena flyover, was cancelled due to “re-tasking” according to Air Force Public Affairs at Nellis.
There was no specific description of the “re-tasking” that lead to the earlier Nellis flyover cancellation. It could have been maintenance requirements or it may also have been a change in alert status due to factors such as tensions with North Korea.
While there are no official confirmations about the specific reasons for the planned Nov. 11, 2017 flyover being cancelled, it may be reasonable to at least wonder if today’s flyover suggests a reduction in B-2 tasking requirements and possibly a correlating moderation (?) of tensions with North Korea. Again, there has been no official acknowledgement of this idea, but a flyover of one of only 12-14 combat ready B-2s represents almost 8% of the total force being committed for a number of hours to the flyover mission, when that availability wasn’t present just 52 days prior for Aviation Nation at Nellis.
There are only 19 total B-2 Spirit stealth bombers in the operational USAF inventory.
Image credit: Mark Holtzman