Eglin, Tyndall jets to fly over area hospitals, first-responder facilities to salute those on front lines of COVID-19 battle

Jim Thompson
jthompson@nwfdailynews.com
Northwest Florida Daily News

EGLIN AFB — Four F-15 Eagle jets from the 40th Flight Test Squadron, part of the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, will be flying over area medical facilities on Thursday.

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The four-aircraft flight is designed to show appreciation for health care workers, first responders and essential personnel serving on the front lines in the ongoing battle against COVID-19.

“Eglin is excited and honored to salute our community, especially our healthcare workers, and everyone serving on the front lines in our fight against COVID-19,” said Brig. Gen. Scott Cain, commander of the 96th Test Wing, and Eglin AFB installation commander. “We're proud to serve alongside these first responders and essential personnel.”

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The Eglin flyover will begin at 1:30 p.m. as the jets swoosh above Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital Emerald Coast in Miramar Beach. Five minutes later, the jets will cross over the campus of Fort Walton Beach Medical Center.

At 1:40 p.m. Thursday, the four aircraft will salute Twin Cities Hospital in Niceville. The flyover will end as the jets pass over North Okaloosa Medical Center in Crestview at 1:45 p.m.

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The times listed for the flyovers are approximate, and it is possible that weather conditions and other circumstances, such as training missions or airspace availability, could move the flyovers to a different day, according to a news release from the 96th Test Wing.

Tyndall Air Force Base in nearby Panama City also will be participating in a separate area flyover on Friday, involving four aircraft. That flyover is set to begin at 9 a.m. and continue for a half-hour. Details of the flyover, at least in terms of what specific sites the jets will fly over, still were being worked out Wednesday, according to base spokesman Don Arias.

The Tyndall AFB flyover aircraft, an F-22 Raptor jet, an F-35 Lightning II jet, and two T-38 Talon jets, will take off from Eglin AFB due to ongoing work at Tyndall, which is being rebuilt after being all but leveled during 2018’s Hurricane Michael. The Category 5 storm made a direct hit on the Panama City base.

While the exact facilities and people to be honored by the Tyndall AFB flyover were still being determined Wednesday, Arias said a number of hospitals, fire stations and other first-responder facilities across Bay and Gulf counties could get a visit Friday morning.

The Tyndall flyover flight path will range from Panama City Beach to Mexico Beach to Port St. Joe, Arias said.

For updates on both the Eglin AFB and Tyndall AFB flyovers, check the respective bases’ Facebook pages. Spectators for the flyovers are being urged to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Florida Department of Health social distancing guidelines as they gather outside to watch the flyovers.

The Eglin and Tyndall flyovers are part of a larger “Air Force Salutes” campaign. Similar flyovers, by Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units, either have or will be held across the United States, from Alaska to New Jersey. All flights have been incorporated into previously scheduled training missions, and carry no additional costs for taxpayers.