President Donald Trump says the U.S. Air Force's Thunderbirds and the Navy's Blue Angels will be conducting flyovers to express support for health care workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic throughout the country over the coming weeks. He made the announcement during his daily White House coronavirus briefing Wednesday.
"Operation America Strong was the idea of our great military men and women," Mr. Trump said. "The Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels crews who wanted to show support to the American medical workers, who just like military members in a time of war are fiercely running forward the fight."
"It's gonna be great. I want to see those shows. I've seen them many times and I can't get enough of them," he added.
The Washington Post first reported that flyovers were being planned for New York, Washington, Baltimore, Newark, Trenton, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Houston, Austin and Dallas. CBS News national security correspondent David Martin confirmed the joint flyovers would occur in some 30 cities, including the ones mentioned in the Post report. The tributes would be conducted soon after the Pentagon receives approval from the White House, Martin reported.
Each squadron would cost at least $60,000 per hour to fly, according to the Post. But the total could run higher since the Pentagon tells CBS News the cost per flying hour for an F-16 is approximately $20,000. A Department of Defense official told CBS News that there would be no additional cost to taxpayers since flyovers are already included in the teams' annual operational budgets.
Mr. Trump also said he aims to move forward with plans for the annualon the National Mall in Washington, but with a smaller crowd to help protect spectators. "Last year was a tremendous success and I would imagine we'll do it," he said. "Hopefully I can use the term forever as a great success."
Over the weekend, following the Air Force Academy's graduation, the Thunderbirds flew over parts of Colorado as a sign of gratitude to health care workers, first responders and other essential personnel in the state.
University of Colorado Hospital UCHealth nurse Kim Clark told CBS Denver that she appreciated the gesture. "It does mean a lot, and it makes you realize that people do really care and see what we're doing even though they're not able to come in the hospital," she said.