The Thunderbirds and Blue Angels will overfly New York City on Tuesday

Apr 27, 2020

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New York City and parts of New Jersey and Long Island will be treated on Tuesday to an overflight by the aerobatic teams of the U.S. Air Force and Navy, in a rare joint appearance as part of a nationwide tour meant to honor first responders and essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Air Force’s Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angels will begin the tour on April 28 over New York and New Jersey, followed by Philadelphia on the same day.

The city of New York’s emergency-announcement Twitter account notified residents on Monday of the upcoming event, saying the planes will fly over Manhattan, Staten Island and Brooklyn at approximately 1,500 feet beginning at noon.

The Washington Post reported, citing senior government officials and a memo, that the military 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 is 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.  

According to a map of the overflight published on the Blue Angels’ official Facebook page, the planes will in fact overfly all five of the city’s boroughs, including Queens and the Bronx, which the tweet from Notify NYC did not mention.

(Image from U.S. Navy Facebook page)


The 15 jets — eight F-16s in the red, white and blue of the Thunderbirds and seven Blue Angel F-18s in blue and gold — will appear from the north at noon over the eastern section of the Bronx, then fly down the west side of Manhattan before veering west towards New Jersey, looping around Newark airport then crossing midtown Manhattan towards Brooklyn. The route will then pass over Staten Island and Queens, followed by an overflight of Long Island and ending at 12:40 p.m. over the Verrazzano Bridge.

After overflying New York City, the two teams will head to Philadelphia via a stop at Joint Base McGuire in New Jersey — the base, incidentally, from which the Air Force tanker jet that startled New Yorkers last week came. This time, people have been alerted in advance. The planes will be flying far below the speed of sound, so there won’t be any broken windows, but 15 fighter jets at low level are still very loud. Fighters sometimes fly over New York City to patrol the skies during major events, but they do so at high altitude, where their noise is much less perceptible.

The jets won’t be performing aerobatics, either, which would be too dangerous over a densely populated area; they will instead be flying in formation.

Check back with us tomorrow on the site and on our Instagram for photos and videos of the flyover from our New York-based staff — and keep in mind the warning in the Navy’s Facebook post: “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.”

Featured photo of the Thunderbirds on April 11, 2020 over North Las Vegas, Nevada, by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images 

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