Here’s what the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels overflight in New York looked like

Apr 28, 2020

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People in New York City and surrounding areas were treated on Tuesday to a low-level overflight by the U.S. Air Force and Navy’s demonstration teams, the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels. At noon, the fighter jets appeared in formation over the city in the first of several overflights of U.S. cities planned to show support for first responders and essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Later Tuesday, the  two teams are performing an overflight of Philadelphia.

The jets — F-16s in the red, white and blue of the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels F-18s in blue and gold — appeared from the north at noon over the Bronx, then flew down the Hudson River between Manhattan and New Jersey, where TPG Executive Editorial Director Scott Mayerowitz filmed them from the Upper West Side of Manhattan as they flew southbound. Audience and Community Producer Wallace Cotton and Senior Associate Andrea Flynn caught them in videos and still images over other parts of the city.

The two teams then veered over New Jersey and reappered over Manhattan before slicing at low level — the city’s emergency notification Twitter feed had said on Tuesday they would be as low as 1,500 feet — over Brooklyn, where I captured them over my roof, so low that they couldn’t be framed in a single shot.

(Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)


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Every borough of the city got a view — and an earful — of the jets, which also overflew Staten Island and Queens as well as parts of Long Island and Connecticut. The Blue Angels had published the route in advance on their Facebook page.


With many air shows canceled for the summer, the prime season for aviation events, the two aerobatic teams suddenly found themselves with time on their hands, while their pilots still needed to maintain proficiency and flight hours. A weekslong program of overflights throughout the U.S. is a way to address that problem, although the teams will not perform aerobatics over cities. The closest they got to over New York on Tuesday was close formation flying — far less close, though, than what they do at air shows, where the Blue Angels especially are known for precise flying with their wingtips just inches apart.

The Washington Post reported, citing senior government officials and a memo, that the military had planned the tour to “champion national unity.” The Post also reported that while the cost of the initiative could be $60,000 an hour, the money was already in the Pentagon’s budget. The memo cited by the newspaper said joint flyovers by the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds will also happen in Washington, Baltimore, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Austin — but the list could change.

On Tuesday, New Yorkers could be seen in at least two locations in Manhattan watching the overflight closer together than social distancing guidelines suggest. The  Navy warned in a Facebook post announcing the overflight that “residents should observe the flyover from the safety of their home-quarantine and should refrain from traveling to see the flyover. Social distancing should be practiced at all times.” However, that’s apparently not what many New Yorkers did. TPG Weekend Editor Jane Frye, who watched from the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea, reported that people were close together — and also witnessed an unexpected additional show. Not to be outdone, the New York City Police Department flew one of its helicopters at ultra-low-level over the Hudson.


Featured photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy    

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