Skip to main content

The history of flyovers

By January 12, 2022Featured, History

Next month the 54th Super Bowl will be held with a perfectly timed flyover as the National Anthem singer hits their last note. We have come to expect it, take it for granted, and if it didn’t occur it would be missed. 

This traditional display of our country’s military brings a feeling of pride and security- no matter if it’s at a sporting event, funeral, or an armed forces celebration.

Here are some flyover historical facts 

  • Flyovers date back to 1918 at the first World Series in Chicago. A procession of more than 60 aircraft took place, becoming an occasional treat. 
  • A WWII, U.S. Navy Admiral wanted to keep up appearances of our aviation program and ordered the creation of a flight exhibition team. The Navy’s Blue Angels were formed and performed for the first time on Aug. 25, 1946. The Air Force would later create the Thunderbirds in 1953.
  • It wasn’t until after the 2001 Sept. 11 attacks that the demand for flyovers increased.
  • The Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, and the Thunderbirds conducted a series of multi-city flyovers from April-May 2020, recognizing healthcare workers, first responders, and other essential personnel while standing in solidarity with all Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • At Super Bowl 54 in Feb. 2021, the first flyover of a major sporting event featuring three bomber-a B-1B Lancer, B-2 Spirit, and B-52 Stratofortress – the flyover took months to coordinate.
  • In 1936, King George V received the first recorded flypast for a non-RAF funeral. The United States adopted the tradition in 1938 during the funeral for Major General Oscar Westover with over 50 aircraft and one blank file.
  • While the COVID-19 flyovers were outside of the pattern of flyovers for funerals, sports, or equipment demonstrations, this kind of display is far from unprecedented. Space shuttle disasters, mourning of students, former Presidents, memorial and Veterans Day celebrations nationwide have become commonplace.
  • Other moments have also brought our forces to the skies. Space shuttle disasters, the mourning of students and former Presidents, memorial and Veterans Day celebrations nationwide.
  • While flyovers are an American tradition, flypasts remain a tradition in Britain, Canada, and Australia. Italy began aerial flyovers synchronized to opera music as a morale booster during the pandemic. 

Timing

  • For a pilot to get TOT- time on target, entertainment directors prepare scripts for pregame activities down to the second.
  • The specific time for takeoff, distance, and airspeed is calculated.
  • A pre-specified holding area where aircraft can circle or hover if necessary is provided.