Team McConnell performed a series of community flyovers for Operation America Strong on May 6, 2020.The flight of two KC-135 Stratotankers and a KC-46 Pegasus from McConnell, followed closely by Wichita’s own B-29 Superfortress "Doc," flew over local communities and hospitals to salute first responders, military members and essential personnel who are working on the frontlines to combat the coronavirus.
The flightpath brought the aircraft over Wichita, Derby, Newton, Andover, Garden Plain, Haysville and El Dorado, including 11 local hospitals. First responders, healthcare workers and community members gathered on the lawn of Susan B. Allen Memorial Hospital, USD490 Performing Arts Center parking lot and a variety of locations along Central Avenue to watch the flyover and join Team McConnell in saluting our local heroes.
"We actually picked up on this information on social media," said Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Director, Frank Williams.
"We noticed that McConnell Air Force Base had decided to do a flyover, so we rallied our troops," said Williams. "Our Public Information Officer Stewart Funk made contact and reached out to the other first responders and the hospital," Williams said. "We came up here to congratulate everybody on a job well done and the hard work they’ve been doing and watch the flyover from the front lawn at the hospital."
Williams also expressed his appreciation for everyone in Butler County, "We are really blessed because we have so much teamwork and collaboration between the hospital, law enforcement, fire department and EMS we are one big team battling one big event."
"Team McConnell takes great pride in being part of this community," said Col. Richard Tanner, 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander. "We are thrilled to have the opportunity to show our appreciation and solidarity to the thousands of heroes who are working tirelessly to battle COVID-19." The flyover salute is a total force effort between the 22nd ARW, the Air Force Reserve 931st Air Refueling Wing and the Kansas Air National Guard 184th Wing, all located on McConnell Air Force Base.
The flight also symbolizes over 70 years of aviation in the air capital of the world, featuring the Air Force’s newest tanker and the World War II heavy bomber.
"We are humbled and honored to join our nation’s warfighters at McConnell Air Force Base and be a part of Operation American Strong to salute those who have been battling the virus on the front lines, as well as to recognize those essential workers who have been keeping the grocery store shelves stocked, making deliveries and keeping our communities going during the pandemic," said Josh Wells, Doc’s Friends, Inc., executive director and general manager.
The Air Force has extensively planned and implemented measures to ensure the force and individual units remain ready to carry out their respective missions. Air Force flyovers are conducted at no additional cost to the taxpayer and serve as training for pilots.