A joint flyover by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds over Pensacola earlier this was week was just a taste of things to come.
U.S. officials and President Donald Trump announced Wednesday evening that the two fighter jet demonstration squadrons will go on a multi-city tour over the next few weeks dubbed "Operation America Strong."
The rare joint performances are being done to uplift Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I’m excited to announce that in the coming weeks, the Air Force Thunderbirds are incredible, and the Navy Blue Angels, equally incredible, will be performing air shows over America’s major cities and some of the cities that aren’t major cities," Trump said during Wednesday's White House press briefing. "What we’re doing is we’re paying tribute to our front line. ... We’re paying tribute to our front-line health care workers confronting COVID. And it’s really a signal to all Americans to remain vigilant during the outbreak. This is a tribute to them, to our warriors."
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The flyovers are intended to be viewed from home, work and via media coverage, according to an email statement released to the News Journal by Ann Stefanek, the chief of media operations for the U.S. Air Force.
They will not take place as traditional air shows.
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"In order to reach the maximum number of Americans, some portions of America Strong will feature only the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds, while others will include both teams flying in their signature Delta formations simultaneously," the statement read.
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More information on timing and locations will be announced soon, according to the Air Force.
During Wednesday's briefing, Trump went on to say that "Operation America Strong" was the idea of U.S. military officials, the respective crews of the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds, and those who wanted to show support to medical employees in U.S. hospitals.
"It’s going to be great, I want to see those shows," Trump said. "I’ve seen them many times and I can’t get enough of them."
Many Pensacola residents captured photos and videos of the Blues and Thunderbirds flying together Tuesday over downtown Pensacola and Pensacola Beach. Blue Angels Public Affairs Officer Navy Lt. j.g. Chelsea Dietlin confirmed that the flyover was part of a joint formation practice.
The Thunderbirds arrived at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Monday afternoon.
The collaboration marks the first time the two teams have joined forces since April 2017, as the two elite fighter jet teams are seldom in the same place at the same time.
Under Department of Defense guidelines, the two teams are not allowed to perform at the same air shows because the military wants to cover as much recruiting territory as possible by using both teams in different locations throughout the year.
Before 2017, the squadrons didn't meet in Pensacola together since the early 2000s.
Jake Newby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-435-8538.