Thunderbirds put on spectacular shows with flyover to support hospital workers, first responders

The Air Force Thunderbirds fly in formation over downtown Los Angeles Friday afternoon.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The Air Force Thunderbirds put on quite a show Friday with an aerial salute to those on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus.

Six F-16C/D Fighting Falcons flew in formation across parts of Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Ventura and Riverside counties throughout the day to honor first responders, healthcare workers, members of the military and others.

Across the region, hospital workers in scrubs went outside to see the salute to their service on the front lines of coronavirus. And they were not the only ones. From Chula Vista to the San Fernando Valley, people took a break from stay-at-home rules to venture out to look at the spectacle.


The U.S. Air Force's Thunderbirds fly in formation over the downtown Los Angeles skyline, as seen from Angel's Point in Elysian Park.
The U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds fly in formation over the downtown Los Angeles skyline, as seen from Angel’s Point in Elysian Park.
(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

At County USC Medical Center, the planes roared by so quickly that some workers struggled to get photos. They appaluded after the jets passed by. Within a minute, the jets blasted past Cedar Sinai Medical Center. Then within in minute or so, the planes skirted through Los Angeles International Airport.

TV reporters covered the scene at hospital across the Southland. They noted that many doctor, nurses and other workers raced back to their life-saving work moments have the planes flew by.

Next, it was on to Newport Beach, then up into Orange County. In a split second, the plane passed over Disneyland -- closed because of coronavirus -- before headed to the Inland Empire. The final legs went over Santa Clarita and Ventura County.

“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, one of the pilots, told KTLA.


Four California Air National Guard F-15C Eagle fighter jets soar over hospitals and medical centers, fire stations and government buildings in Fresno.

The Thunderbirds are collaborating with the Navy’s Blue Angels and local Air National Guard units to stage similar spectacles as part of a nationwide show of solidarity and support for COVID-19 responders dubbed America Strong.

California workers on the front lines of the coronavirus fight will be honored from the sky during two military salutes this week.

May 13, 2020

Southland residents posting pictures or videos to social media are encouraged to use the hashtags #AmericaStrong and #Thunderbirds.

“It is an honor for our team to salute the countless Californians who have committed to keeping the communities safe during this difficult time in our nation,” said Lt. Col. John Caldwell, Thunderbirds commander and leader. “We hope to give onlookers a touching display of American resolve that honors those serving on the front line in our fight against COVID-19.”

Times staff writer Colleen Shalby contributed to this report.