Blue Angels and Thunderbirds flyovers honor coronavirus responders

"An amazing display of gratitude and patriotism from the best pilots on earth," said the head of University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey. "Thank you."

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By Minyvonne Burke

The U.S. Navy's Blue Angels and the Air Force's Thunderbirds gave a loud salute Tuesday to health care workers and others on the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus with flyovers planned in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The event began at about noon in Newark, New Jersey, and New York City, the Thunderbirds said in a press release. The demonstration squadrons then headed to Trenton, New Jersey, for a 10-minute show that began at 1:45 p.m.

The final stop was in Philadelphia at 2 p.m.

"An amazing display of gratitude and patriotism from the best pilots on earth," tweeted Shereef Elnahal, president and CEO of University Hospital in Newark, with a video of the overhead spectacle Tuesday. "Thank you."

"We are truly excited to take to the skies with our Navy counterparts for a nation-wide tribute to the men and women keeping our communities safe," U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Caldwell said in a statement. "We hope to give Americans a touching display of American resolve that honors those serving on the frontline of our fight with COVID-19."

During the flyovers, residents heard a few seconds of jet noises and could see six of the Blue Angels’ F-18C/D Hornets and six of the Thunderbirds’ F-16C/D Fighting Falcons fly overhead in formation.

The Navy and Air Force began planning the flyovers a month ago as a tribute to health care workers, first responders, military and other essential workers.

Cmdr. Brian Kesselring, U.S Navy Blue Angels commanding officer, said he was honored to be a part of the flyovers.

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"Thank you to all of those in essential industries keeping our nation moving forward. We will get through this," he said. "We are all in this together."

The Navy and Air Force reminded people to maintain social distancing while watching the flyovers and said not to travel to landmarks or hospitals. Several more events will be taking place in the coming weeks.

There have been more than 56,000 deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. among more than 994,000 confirmed cases, according to NBC News' count.