Residents across the Southland were treated to a thrilling show in the skies Friday as the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds soared over the Southland to honor workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.
Six F-16C/D Fighting Falcons flew in precision formation past hospitals and medical centers across Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura counties throughout the afternoon.
The first leg of the aerial tribute began around noon in the San Diego area and ended about 30 minutes later in the north part of the county.
A second flyover started in the Laguna Niguel area around 1:35 p.m. and went through the greater L.A. area before winding back down to Orange County and through the Inland Empire, where it wrapped up after 2 p.m.
The final and shortest leg began in the Port Hueneme area around 3:05 p.m. and zoomed past the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Sim Valley a short time later as the aircraft headed toward Santa Clarita, Sky5 aerial video showed.
The purpose of the demonstration was to salute all health care professionals, first responders, military, and other essential workers, and well as to show solidarity with every American during the pandemic, according to a statement from the Thunderbirds.
A nurse who works at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks told KTLA he was appreciative of the demonstration.
“It makes us feel like a new hero. As we support them in their times of need, they’re doing it now for ours. It’s just a kind of way of passing the torch of respect,” he said. “I know they’re doing their part too, to defend us and keep us safe, but we’re doing it here in the homeland, keeping our patients safe in the community.”
One of the pilots involved in the flyover told KTLA earlier that it was also very meaningful for him to participate in the event.
“I think just if you can give that little bit of support and inspiration to all these medical workers and essential personnel, the people that are fighting for us on our absolute worst day, then it’s totally worth it,” Major Zane Taylor said.
Those who witnessed the breathtaking sight are encouraged to share images of the flyover on social media, using the hashtags #AmericaStrong and #Thunderbirds.
The Thunderbirds have participated in other tributes recently to thank health care workers, including one in Las Vegas that went over 18 hospitals and medical centers in the area last month.