Updated: Three fighter jets from Eielson Air Force Base will offer an aerial tribute Friday to first-responders dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. An F-16 and two F-35s with the 354th Fighter Wing will fly over Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and the downtown area Friday morning between 10 a.m. and noon. Eielson officials said Wednesday the event tentatively is scheduled to begin around 11:30.
Base spokesperson Capt. Kay Nissen says the flyover is intended to demonstrate support for both the first-responders and military personnel.
“It’s, one, to show a little bit of readiness by the U.S. Air Force – ‘We’re still flying, we’re still doing it, despite this global pandemic,’ "she said Monday. “But also we recognize that a lot of service and sacrifice is happening in our local communities by those first-responders, by those mission-essential and frontline individuals.”
Nissen says the flyovers are being conducted as part of a nationwide initiative called Air Force Salutes that’s intended to show appreciation to the workers at the front lines of the pandemic.
“The Air Force Salutes program is really just a series of flyovers in major cities to demonstrate the Air Force’s readiness during COVID-19 but also to just salute first-responders in general,” she said.
Nissen says Eielson officials wanted to include the F-35 Lightning 2s in the local flyover in recognition of the two squadrons of F-35s that have begun arriving at the base.
“It’s just symbolic of the change that’s coming to Eielson as well,” she said. “So, we’re so thankful to be able to share this mission with a community that supports us all the time. And we’re just so thankful for what everyone has been doing.”
Eielson officials say a second F-16 will fly along the formation to document the flight.
Air Force and Alaska Air National Guard also are scheduled flyovers around the Mat-Su, Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula on Friday. The units began the flyovers Tuesday at other communities around the state that will range from Kotzebue to Ketchikan.
Editor's note: KOTZ radio in Kotzebue reports that the Tuesday flyovers at that community, Nome and Bethel all were canceled due to inclement weather. The flyovers have been rescheduled for Friday, May 15th.