High in the skies over Las Vegas, the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron — also known as the “Thunderbirds” — showed its support for those on the frontlines responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
The flight, which included all six of the Thunderbird F-16s in wedge formation along with at least two camera aircraft accompanying the aircraft, took place at 2:30 PM local Las Vegas time and was watched by hundreds of thousands of spectators who were separated all over Las Vegas by social distancing guidelines.
Interestingly, the team carried out the flyover in 5 instead of 6 jets because, according to local spotters, one of the F-16s experienced a birdstrike shortly after taking off from Nellis Air Force Base.
A statement on the official Air Force Thunderbirds Twitter page said, “We salute the healthcare workers and first responders who are at the forefront of our nation’s fight against COVID-19. They are an inspiration for the entire country during these challenging times and it was an honor to fly for them today.”
The Thunderbirds said the flyover was to show appreciation and support for health care workers, first responders and other essential personnel in Sin City and around the nation working in the battle against COVID-19.
“It is an honor to fly for the Americans at the forefront of our nation’s fight against the coronavirus,” Lt. Col. John Caldwell, Thunderbirds commander and leader, said in a news release. “They are true heroes and we look forward to demonstrating the support of the 685,000 total force Airmen of the U.S. Air Force for health care workers, first responders and COVID-19 essential personnel in Las Vegas and across the nation.”
The Thunderbirds’ flight path started at Nellis Air Base and took them through Centennial Hills, Summerlin, Spring Valley, along the Las Vegas Strip, and down to Henderson before returning to Nellis Air Force Base.
Images showed the aircraft soaring over the famous Las Vegas Strip and casinos now empty due to the virus outbreak.
Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett shared a video on Twitter of an inside look of the planes flying over the Strip.
Las Vegas residents were able to enjoy the flyover safely from their home-quarantine.
As of Sunday, there are 530,006 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with at least 20,608 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Nellis AFB, just outside Las Vegas, Nevada, has a long history of supporting the community through triumph and tragedy under the leadership of 57th Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Robert G. Novotny. Following the tragic October 1, 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, the 57th Wing honored health care workers, first responders, survivors and memorialized victims of the tragedy with two specially painted aircraft, an F-16 and an F-15, wearing the moniker “Vegas Strong”.