California Air National Guard fighter jets fly over Bay Area to honor health care workers

In the comic books, heroes can fly. But during the COVID-19 pandemic the real heroes wear hospital scrubs, badges and fire gear and have their feet firmly planted on the ground.

Today, the California Air National Guard did the flying for them, to honor first responders and health care workers on the front line.

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Hospital workers at Kaiser's Richmond Medical Center gathered on the ground and on the open fifth floor deck of its parking garage for a better view.

They strained their eyes to focus on four tiny specks on the horizon. As those specks started to grow, you could hear the distant roar of powerful jet engines, but they were temporarily drowned out by the yells of appreciation from the people being honored.

"I've never seen a jet that close before. To see them fly that low and that slow is absolutely amazing," Mohammed Mojadidi, a Kaiser nursing supervisor said.

Four F-15 Eagle fighter jets from the Fresno-based 144th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard flew over a number of hospitals in the Bay Area and elsewhere to honor the doctors, nurses, paramedics, firefighters and police officers on the front lines of caring for people with COVID-19.

"I think it was really tremendous that they would pause and recognize the work that has gone on in California with healthcare workers," said Jenny Richardson, who works in Kaiser's Services Division.

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To make sure they could be seen on this cloudy Wednesday, the jets flew low and slow, about 1,000 feet high and a little more than 300 miles per hour.

Lt. Col Benjamin Bonnes, the flight surgeon who cares for the pilots in the 144th, even made the trip up to Richmond to admire the flyover.

"My hat's off to everyone who has been working the long hours and doing good work," he said.

In the Bay Area, the jets also flew over hospitals in Oakland, Milpitas and San Jose.

Other regions pilots passed through the San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento, and cities such as Los Angeles, Reedley, Selma, Madera, Sacramento, Merced, Monterey, and Clovis.

You may wonder how much the symbolic flight cost the taxpayers of California. The Air Guard says this was considered part of the normal flight hours each pilot has to log to stay qualified, so it didn't cost anything more than regular training.

California National Guard flight map

California National Guard 114th Fighter Wing



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