Thirty U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets Fly to Texas In Preparation for Unprecedented 21-Jet Missing Man Formation.
The U.S. Navy has dispatched thirty F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet jets from various units to participate in a massive memorial flyover and missing man formation to honor the life and passing of former President George H.W. Bush. A total of 21 aircraft will be used in the formation flyover with 9 aircraft being used in a support role for the mission.
The U.S. Navy announced the memorial mission on Tuesday as the aircraft began to leave Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, ahead of the Thursday, December 6 interment ceremony at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas.
According to an article by Megan Eckstein in the U.S. Naval Institute News, “A naval aviation official told USNI News that a missing man formation of this size is unprecedented and reflects Bush’s legacy as a naval aviator and ongoing relationship with the Navy’s carrier strike group community.”
Former President Bush, who passed away on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, was a decorated naval aviator who flew the Grumman TBM-1C Avenger torpedo bomber with Torpedo Squadron Fifty-One (VT-51) from the aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto (CVL-30) during WWII. Bush flew 58 combat missions and survived being shot down over the Pacific in 1944. He was also one of the youngest combat aviators in the U.S. military at the time, only 18 years old when he was first commissioned on June 9, 1943.
Former President Bush also served as the Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency from 1976 until 1977 under then-President Gerald R. Ford. Bush was elected 41st President of the United States in 1988 and served from 1989 until 1993.
U.S. Navy Captain Kevin McLaughlin from Newport Beach, California, Commodore of the Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, will fly lead position in the massive memorial formation in a VFA-103 “Jolly Rogers” jet. Capt. McLaughlin’s F/A-18F Super Hornet carries special markings for the memorial flight that read, “President George H.W. Bush, 41” as the pilot’s name on the canopy rail and “Barbara, First Lady” on the systems operator’s position. According to the U.S. Navy, Capt. McLaughlin has over 3,700 flight hours and 875 arrested landings onboard 10 different aircraft carriers.
According to the U.S. Navy, a total of eight squadrons will participate in the memorial formation. The units involved in the giant aerial tribute include Strike Fighter Squadron 103 (VFA-103), the “Jolly Rogers”; Strike Fighter Squadron 143 (VFA-143), the famous “Pukin’ Dogs”; Strike Fighter Squadron 32 (VFA-32), the “Swordsmen”; Strike Fighter Squadron 83 (VFA-83), the “Rampagers”; Strike Fighter Squadron 131 (VFA-131), the “Wildcats”; Strike Fighter Squadron 105 (VFA-105), the “Gunslingers”; Strike Fighter Squadron 31 (VFA-31), the “Tomcatters”; and Strike Fighter Squadron 87 (VFA-87), the “Golden Warriors.
In an official statement released to the media, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Roy Kelley, commanding officer of Naval Air Force Atlantic said, “Being selected to participate in this memorial is one of the highest honors a Naval Aviator can receive. In addition to being our president, he [George H.W. Bush] was also one of our brothers, flying combat missions off aircraft carriers during World War II. His service to our Navy and nation merits a tribute of this magnitude.”
According to the U.S. Navy, the memorial flyover and missing man formationjets will be over President and First Lady Bush in College Station, TeAS, at 16.15 CST Thursday.