U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angels pay tribute to first responders and medical personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 2, 2020, America’s premiere flight demonstration teams conducted joint flyovers of Baltimore, Washington DC, and Atlanta. This was the second set of multiple city flyovers done by the two teams which had previously carried out flyovers of New York City, Trenton, and Philadelphia.
The America Strong flyovers will take place over a two week period, as both joint and individual team flights across the United States. Because of airshow cancellations due to COVID-19, the teams as well as other frontline units came up with America Strong to salute the healthcare workers and first responders fighting the pandemic.
While some have attacked the flyovers as a waste of funds, both teams would have to fly anyways to at least execute enough flight hours to maintain pilot proficiency. Thus, there was no additional cost to the taxpayer.
In order to mitigate the exposure of both the ground and air crews to COVID-19, both teams are temporarily based at the Blue Angels home base of Naval Air Station Pensacola. Flyovers are done in one day with a regional grouping of cities to be overflown. There are no stops enroute, as both teams conduct air-to-air refueling before the flyovers and then tank again to head back to base. After the first two sets of flyovers, the teams will then split up and conduct individual flyovers across the U.S.. America Strong will end with joint flyovers over multiple cities in the state of Texas.
On Saturday May 2, the weather over Washington DC was absolutely perfect, with mostly clear skies and spring like temperatures. While there was a good crowd in attendance, people were exercising social distancing. This author selected to photograph the flyover at the base of the Washington Monument.
This location is elevated and provides numerous flags to be included in the foreground images.
Both teams arrived in a timely manner after they had first flown over nearby Baltimore. They flew two Delta formations composed of six F/A-18Cs for the Blue Angels and six F-16Cs for the Thunderbirds. In addition, there was an Air Force F-16D flying just off the formations as a photo ship.
Their flight path took them over Washington DC three times, though from my vantage point I could only photograph two passes. I tend to photograph such air shows/flyovers with two camera bodies attached to a dual harness. That way I am able to shoot with two different telephoto lenses, in this case a 70-300mm and a 200-500mm.
On their first pass, I captured this image of both teams and photo ship through the flags circling the Washington Monument. On their final pass I was able to photograph the two formations as they flew overhead.
Everyone around me truly enjoyed this wonderful aerial demonstration by the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds. After the final pass many people broke into applause. After being cooped up in home, it was doubly nice to get out in the fresh air as well as take in the sight of the flyover. America Strong will last until sometime in mid-May when they conduct the last flyover in Texas. As an aviation enthusiast, I do so hope that both teams fly together when their schedules permit.