Released: 5/11/2020 12:29:23 PM
By Thomas J. Prohaska
Published May 10, 2020, 12:25 p.m.
At least three Air Force planes are scheduled to fly over hospitals from Lockport to Buffalo at midday Tuesday, in salute to health care workers battling the Covid-19 pandemic.
The flyover will come at the end of a regularly scheduled training mission involving a plane from the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and at least two from the Vermont Air National Guard, said Sgt. Kevin Nichols, spokesman for the 914th Air Refueling Wing of the Air Force Reserve at Niagara Falls.
The planes – a KC-135 from the 914th and at least two F-35s from Vermont – are to fly over Eastern Niagara Hospital in Lockport at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday.
The formation then will fly over Mount St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston, Niagara Falls International Airport, DeGraff Memorial Hospital in North Tonawanda, the University at Buffalo, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo Niagara International Airport, Mercy Hospital, Buffalo General Medical Center, Erie County Medical Center, Sisters Hospital, the VA Medical Center, Kenmore Mercy Hospital and finally Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center at 12:15 p.m.
The route of the planned Air Force flyover of Western New York health care facilities, set for Tuesday, May 12, 2020. (Courtesy 914th Air Refueling Wing)
The Niagara Falls hospital was added to the itinerary Monday.
In a news release from the Falls air base Monday, Lt. Col. Ben Canetti, director of operations for the 328th Air Refueling Squadron, said the aircraft had been granted approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, Air Transport Canada, and Buffalo Approach Control to use the restricted air space over the City of Niagara Falls.
"There’s a lot of limitations when planning a flyover to ensure the safest environment possible," Canetti said.
After the flight, the plane from the 914th will land at the Niagara Falls base, while the F-35s will fly directly back to Vermont.
"On behalf of a grateful Air Force, thank you to all health care workers, essential personnel and emergency responders across Western New York," said Col. Brian Burr, commander of the 914th. "Your selfless service to our community is a testament to the toughness this area of our country is known for. As we fly over, know that we stand united with you."
Flyovers by Air Force planes to salute health workers have occurred at numerous air bases from coast to coast, after President Trump announced April 22 that the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy's Blue Angels wanted to make flights saluting health care workers.
They have flown over such cities as New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore, Jacksonville, Miami, New Orleans, Houston and Dallas in the past week.
On Friday, two C-17s spent 2½ hours zigzagging through the Seattle area, flying over 43 health care facilities. There were two flyovers last week in the Cleveland area, and similar flyovers have been seen in eastern Washington and northern Idaho, northern California and Colorado.