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Photos: Air Force Thunderbirds Take Over San Antonio Skies To Honor Frontline Workers

Update: Check out the photos in the slideshow above and the videos below. 

Due to weather, the Texas flyover start times have been delayed. The flyover for San Antonio is now 2:20 p.m. (CDT) and will last approximately 30 minutes. Austin start time is 3:40 p.m. and will last approximately 25 minutes.

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team will honor those on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic with performances over Texas this week. The group of six F-16 fighter jets will cut a path across San Antonio and Austin May 13 to honor healthcare workers, essential personnel and others battling COVID-19.

“We are honored to extend our gratitude to Texans in San Antonio and Austin who have been working hard to keep their communities safe,” Lt. Col. John Caldwell, Thunderbirds commander said in a statement. “We want Texans to look up to see the display of American resolve and know that the American spirit will prevail beyond this difficult time in our nation.”

San Antonio area residents should be able to see the formation from their homes and businesses. The Thunderbirds warn that the public shouldn’t travel to landmarks or gather in large groups to watch the flyover.

The team normally has a rigorous touring schedule that caters to stadiums and air shows. But as social distancing requirements were put in place around the country, their plans for the season changed.

Maj. Zane Taylor, a slot pilot with the Thunderbirds, said the team initially did a trial flyover for hospitals near their home base in Las Vegas — and the idea caught on.

“We really didn't expect to have the feedback that we got from it. It really took us all by surprise… From there, we realized we can still do our mission as this goes on. We can still support everyone who's on the front lines of this thing. That's where it kicked off.”

Taylor acknowledged that many people have grown tired of dealing with the realities of coronavirus, himself included. But he urged against complacency. 

“I think when we're having those feelings, that’s probably the exact time where we need to fight the hardest and support those who are fighting for us the hardest,” he said. “They're in the hospitals. They're in the stores that have to stay open.” 

The San Antonio flyover is scheduled to begin at 2:20 p.m. and will cut a path around the city’s hospitals. A subsequent flyover in Austin will begin at 3:40 p.m. Those along the flight path can expect a few moments of jet engine noise. 

More information is available here

Credit Courtesy of U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds

The Blue Angels flew over Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and New Orleans early last week in a similar salute. The Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing also scheduled flights over Corpus Christi, Lubbock and Laredo that started Monday.

Carson Frame can be reached at Carson@TPR.org and on Twitter at @carson_frame.

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Carson Frame was Texas Public Radio's military and veterans' issues reporter from July 2017 until March 2024.