Aircraft from the US military’s elite flight demonstration squadrons saluted first responders, healthcare professionals and other essential workers in a flyover of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
At lunchtime on Tuesday, 12 fighter jets — six from the Navy’s Blue Angels, and six from the Air Force’s Thunderbirds — streaked across the skies above New York City, Newark, Trenton, and Philadelphia.
US Air Force Lt Col John Caldwell, Thunderbird 1 and mission commander for the flyover, said in a statement: “We hope to give Americans a touching display of American resolve that honours those serving on the frontline of our fight with Covid-19.”
“We are incredibly honoured to have the opportunity to salute those working on the frontline of the Covid-19 response, we are in awe of your strength and resilience,” added Cmdr Brian Kesselring, US Navy Blue Angels commanding officer and flight leader.
“Thank you to all of those in essential industries keeping our nation moving forward. We will get through this. We are all in this together.”
The flyover is the first of several planned over the coming weeks across the country, part of the ”America Strong” tour as a tribute to those on the frontline of the nation’s response to the pandemic.
People wanting to watch were reminded to do so from home, maintaining social distancing guidelines, and not to travel to landmarks or hospitals or gather in large groups. That instruction was only moderately successful.
Reaction online was mixed. Many enjoyed the display, acknowledged the spectacle, and took the opportunity to thank those on the frontline of the pandemic response.
Many others questioned how much personal protective equipment they might have bought for the cost of the display, how many tests could have provided, or how much funding could be given to food banks.
“Unless the Blue Angels are dropping N95 masks and PPE for New York’s doctors and nurses, that was a subpar way to fight #Coronavirus,” said one tweet.
A senior military official told The Washington Post that the cost of the flights comes from money already in the Pentagon budget. President Trump said that the idea came from members of the military to show their support to American medical workers.
On Tuesday, the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the US topped one million, and the death toll stood at approximately 58,400.
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