BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
The men and women of Barksdale showed their appreciation to healthcare workers of Louisiana by performing a flyover of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, May 1, 2020.
Two B-52H Stratofortress aircraft from Barksdale Air Force Base and two F-15 Eagles from the Louisiana Air National Guard (ANG) flew together as a tribute to Louisiana’s medical professionals. But what does it take to make it all happen?
The Secretary of the Air Force public affairs reached out to Barksdale with an initiative to perform a flyover around New Orleans due to the population size, impact of COVID-19 and the efforts of the medical community in the area. Barksdale leadership accepted the initiative and added Baton Rouge to the route. As the general location was finalized, volunteers from the Louisiana ANG immediately offered to join in.
“I began working with the requesting off-base point of contacts and agencies to get the initial flyover plan,” said Lt. Col. Tim “Rolex” Miller, 2nd Bomb Wing wing scheduler. “After getting approval, I coordinated with leadership to make sure that the 2nd Maintenance Group could support with an aircraft and the 2nd Operations Group could support with aircrew.”
The flyover involved many moving pieces not limited to Barksdale Airmen but also partners from the local community.
“We were able to start coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, Louisiana governor's office and the mayors of both New Orleans and Baton Rouge,” said Col. David Gordon, 2nd Operations Group commander.
By working with all of their offices, the team was able to quickly establish a consensus and build a plan to flyover as many of the medical centers as possible. In total they flew past at least 12 medical facilities and other notable Louisiana landmarks.
“We did the last flyover to show support for the healthcare workers and for the people with the virus,” said Capt. Erin Walraven, 343rd Bomb Squadron weapons systems officer. “We are here as a country going through this together, we wanted to fly by and show our support.”
All B-52s flyovers are flown in conjunction with a training mission. Typical training missions will have air refueling and simulated weapons training followed by instrument approach and landing practice at the end of the mission. Flyovers are fit in-between training events.
“The flyover does add some complexity to the planning of the mission, which helps to challenge our crews and keep them proficient at operating in a low altitude environment,” Miller said. “It also allows the aircrews to fly in new airspace and work with local air traffic controllers that we would normally not interact with.”
Prior to the flyover, Barksdale had an opportunity to train with the fighters just off the coast of Louisiana.
“So it was a great opportunity for us to train to test our interoperability between the Air Force and the national guard,” Gordon said. “To show that we can work together to provide this flyover for the people of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Bossier City areas.”
Barksdale does have other flyovers planned for the Shreveport and Bossier City area. The 2nd OG have done flyovers regularly in the community and anticipate that they will continue to do so in the future.
“I am but one of hundreds of Airmen who work as a team to be able to generate these sorties,” Miller said. “From the crew chiefs and fuels specialists to aircrew, weather forecasters, tower controllers, security forces, life support technicians and more, all are required to successfully repair, service, launch and fly the B-52 so that we can train and support the flyover mission.”