The Navy Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds will conduct a series of flyovers across the nation to honor healthcare workers combating COVID-19, President Trump announced Wednesday.
“This is a tribute to them, to our warriors,” Trump told reporters. “Because they are equal warriors to those incredible pilots and all of the fighters that we have for the more traditional fights that we win. And we win. If we want to win, we always win.”
Trump said the flyovers are part of a mission dubbed Operation America Strong and was the brainchild of service members.
“Operation America Strong was the idea of our great military men and women — the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels crews who wanted to show support to the American medical workers who, just like military members in a time of war, are fiercely running toward the fight,” Trump said. “It’s going to be great. I want to see those shows. I’ve seen them many times and I can’t get enough of them.”
The Washington Post first reported that the Pentagon was devising a plan for the flyovers before Trump publicly shared the development. According to a Pentagon memo shared with the Post, the flyovers are scheduled over the course of the next several weeks.
Both demonstration teams are set to flyover cities including Washington, Baltimore, New York, Newark, Trenton, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Austin, per the memo. Separately, the Blue Angels will conduct flyovers in at least 13 other cities while the Thunderbirds will fly over at least another eight cities independently.
“This is just a sincere thank-you,” the senior military official said, according to the Washington Post. “It’s one way to acknowledge those who are pitching in.”
Although hourly operational costs of the squadrons run around $60,000, the official said that the Pentagon will absorb the cost with funding already allocated in the department’s budget.
Trump characterized the flyovers as “air shows,” but the defense official clarified to the Post that is not the case.
Additionally, the president signaled the administration would attempt to revive his “Salute to America” event held on the National Mall during the Fourth of July last year. The event was designed to honor each of the branches of the military and also featured military demonstrations and flyovers.
“Last year was a tremendous success and I would imagine we’ll do it — hopefully, I can use the term ‘forever,’" Trump said Wednesday.