By Charles A. Atkeison
ATLANTA -- The Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels soared across north Georgia in joint formations on Saturday to perform a series of flyovers to thank first responders on the frontlines of Covid-19.
While some residents did report seeing the jets as they were approaching Atlanta spectators who wanted a closer look traveled south toward Atlanta to watch from several locations near GA-400 and I-285. The combined fourteen jets smoke trails could be seen from as far north as Roswell.
"Watching the America Strong flyover was an amazing experience for our family and the Atlanta community," George Hicks of Cumming said from his spot near Dunwoody. "There was a sense of patriotism, unity and gratitude for the healthcare workers that were honored. It was a once in a lifetime experience we will never forget."
The Atlanta flyover came after overflights in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., earlier in the day. As the two jet teams headed for the Peach State they performed two aerial refueling operations over north Georgia by four KC-10 Extenders, allowing the jets to fly the route nonstop.
Sunny skies greeted the flight teams over north Atlanta as they arrived at 1:34 p.m. While officials had asked everyone to stay home, the chance to witness the rare flyovers of both teams was a draw that proved hard to resist. Spectators gathered along exit ramps and in parking lots along the 400 corridor to watch the overflights.
"It was a great feeling coming out with the family during this time of social distancing to honor all of our heroes," Alpharetta resident Chris Brown said viewing the flyovers with his wife Vicki and two children. "It was also nice not to feel alone with everyone displaying their patriotism."
The Thunderbirds are poised to return to metro Atlanta on October 23 and 24 to perform during the Wings Over North Georgia airshow. The family fun event will see the the Air Force squadron perform each afternoon.
(Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)