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Navy Will Perform Unprecedented 21-Fighter Flyover for Bush Funeral

Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, talk with then-Capt. Chip Miller, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), in the captain’s in-port cabin. Bush and his wife, Barbara, spent their time aboard watching flight operations, touring the ship and spending time with the crew. US Navy Photo

This post has been updated to include additional information from the Navy.

The Navy will honor former naval aviator and 41st president George H.W. Bush on Thursday with a largest-ever 21-aircraft missing man formation as part of his funeral services in Texas.

Thirty F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets departed Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., today ahead of the Dec. 6 interment ceremony at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas.

A naval aviation official told USNI News that a missing man formation of this size is unprecedented and reflects Bush’s legacy as a naval aviator and ongoing relationship with the Navy’s carrier strike group community.

“Being selected to participate in this memorial is one of the highest honors a Naval Aviator can receive,” Rear Adm. Roy Kelley, commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic, said in a statement.
“In addition to being our president, he was also one of our brothers, flying combat missions off aircraft carriers during World War II. His service to our Navy and nation merits a tribute of this magnitude.”

Capt. Kevin McLaughlin, the commander of Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, and Cmdr. Patrice Fernandes, the executive officer of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 103, prepare to fly an F/A-18F Super Hornet to the staging location in advance of their upcoming flyover honoring fellow aviator and late President, George H.W. Bush. The flyover is scheduled to take place on Dec. 6th at 4:15pm CST, over President Bush’s presidential library in College Station, TX. McLaughlin will be fly the lead jet for the flyover. US Navy photo via Facebook.

Aircraft from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 103, the “Jolly Rogers”; VFA-143, the “Pukin’ Dogs”; VFA-32, the “Swordsmen”; VFA-83, the “Rampagers”; VFA-131, the “Wildcats”; VFA-105, the “Gunslingers”; VFA-31, the “Tomcatters”; and VFA-87, the “Golden Warriors,” all departed Oceana today ahead of their participation in the flyover.

Capt. Kevin McLaughlin, the commander of Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, will fly the lead plane in the formation. His aircraft has been painted to list “President George H.W. Bush, 41” where the pilot’s name would typically go and “Barbara, First Lady” where the naval flight officer’s name might go.

Bush died on Nov. 30 at the age of 94, after a lifetime of military and public service. He enlisted in the Navy when he turned 18, just six months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He became one of the Navy’s youngest naval aviators in history, earning his Wings of Gold at the age of 18. After being shot down during a bombing mission in 1944, Bush was rescued by a submarine and returned to flying as soon as he could get back to his carrier, USS San Jacinto (CVL-30). He went on to complete 58 combat missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, according to the Navy.

In 2009 the Navy commissioned an aircraft carrier named after Bush, and the former president was involved in the pre-commissioning activities and kept in touch with the crew well after the ship joined the fleet.

Former President and honoree George H. W. Bush speaks to the audience during the commissioning ceremony for the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) aircraft carrier at Naval Station, Norfolk, Va., Jan. 10, 2009. Defense Department photo.

To honor that ongoing relationship with the Navy, all the former George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group commanders were invited to the Monday afternoon ceremony at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington. CSG commanders in attendance included Commander of Naval Air Forces Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, Commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet Adm. John Aquilino, Carrier Strike Group 4 Commander Rear Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, retired Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, retired Rear Adm. David Thomas and retired Rear Adm. Gregory Nosal. Rear Adm. Will Pennington, who commanded USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) until January 2018, was also in attendance.

Thirteen current and former strike group and ship commanders were listed as honorary pallbearers for the Wednesday celebration of life ceremony to be held at the National Cathedral in Washington – a decision made by Bush himself in recent years as he planned his funeral arrangements: Adm. John Aquilino, Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, retired Vice Adm. Frank Pandolfe, retired Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, Rear Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, retired Rear Adm. David Thomas, Rear Adm. Andrew Loiselle, Rear Adm. Stephen Evans, Rear Adm. William Pennington, retired Rear Adm. Brian Luther, retired Rear Adm. Gregory Nosal, Capt. Sean Bailey, and retired Capt. Kevin O’Flaherty. A USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) spokesman confirmed that current commanding officer Bailey was not able to attend in person, as the aircraft carrier is underway for training.

Additionally, about 115 sailors from the current Bush crew who represent all 20 departments on the ship were on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Monday when Air Force One – being dubbed Special Mission 41 this week while supporting Bush’s funeral arrangements in Washington and Texas – landed and unloaded Bush’s casket.

  • scotfahey

    Que cameras, this should be epic

  • SnipeDr

    Looking forward to it. I was a crew chief in the AF on 76064, an F15A model. My bird did 4 flyovers while it was in my care. Awesome times.

    • PStein

      You never forget your tail numbers! Good times.

  • nimrod funk

    Go boys, go!

    I’ll be part of the Navy family in Pensacola soon. I can’t wait.

    • brew_it

      I did my A school there eons ago. Fun town.

  • John Smith

    Tremendous!!!! A great man….a great example.

    • plagar3

      Great man for the new world order.

  • oncemorearound

    Impressive…. Wouldn’t it be something after the flyby if they ALL lit the wick and went vertical.

    • “We’re going ballistic, Mav!”

    • Feral45

      Just need 1.

  • BJ

    Maybe unprecedented for the Navy, but the 4th Fighter Wing (USAF) did a 21 ship flyby for both President Reagan and President Ford.

  • Bigred37

    WOULDN’T IT BE GREAT, IF THE DEMORATS COULD COME UP WITH ONE MAN , THAT COULD CARRY GEORGE H.W. BUSH’S JOCKSTRAP!

    • EnuffBull

      His name is Mueller and he is in charge of returning this country to its non-treasonous roots.

      • Guv William J. LePetomane

        Please stop posting and go play in traffic.

    • Rio Sam

      JFK. But never again since nor will happen in the future!

    • Moammar2016

      To bad you voted in a “BoneSpur” chump, who couldn’t carry George H.W. Bush’s jockstrap!

      • 1chrisford1

        What were Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Chuckie Schumer, Bernie Sanders, and the Obamas afflicted with? I can’t believe they all had bone spurs!

      • Bigred37

        DIDN’T YOU READ THE RULES RAGHEAD? DEMORATS PROVIDED US WITH BILL CLINTON, AND BARRAK HUSSAIN OBAMA, THOSE TWO GREAT WARRIORS THAT FOUGHT SO MANY BATTLES ON THE FRONT LINES OF WARFARE. AND YOU BITCH ABOUT BONE SPURS. WHAT AN AXXHOLE YOU ARE! AND WE ARE BURYING A GREAT WAR HERO. SHOW SOME RESPECT JACKASS!

  • Bad Will Hunting

    Count Dracula, he’s much worse than Count Dracula. The children witnessed what he really was. Some didn’t live through it. RIP to them.

    • plagar3

      baby eater

  • phxgeo

    Thank you ladies and gentlemen who will, be part of the flyover in the air and on the ground. What an outstanding gesture to honor one of your own. Thank you for your service and May God Bless each of you and keep you safe.

  • John Burch

    Somebody wanted this to be Huge.

    • plagar3

      Something going on behind the scenes.

  • Nostrildamus

    RIP, President Bush.

    • plagar3

      Rest In Purgatory.

      • Little ol’ Deplorable Me

        I don’t think that’s up to you.

  • sirandrew

    the numbers keep getting smaller and smaller.

  • Zbigkid

    these tributes dont mean anything to most americans below the age of 50. they are all too narcissistic and ‘into themselves’ spending more time doing selfies than any activity worth respect. they dont give respect because they haven’t earned any themselves.

  • Jim Atkin

    PROUD OF YOU GUYS. NAVAL AVIATION REMEMBERS ITS OWN.

  • Rick Shonsite

    ‘Merica!

  • Roman

    There needs to be at least one TBM Avenger as part of the ceremony, only the best!

  • plagar3

    Hehehehe!

  • Maybe 7 Iranian, 7 Chinese and 7 Cuban jets. (Does Cuber have jets?)

  • George Bascomb

    Obama is being saluted?

  • L. Miller

    Rest in peace Mr. President. You served your country with bravery, maturity, humility, class, many OK 3 wires and a strong hand on the stick when required. A grateful nation morns our loss and salutes you. You are now flying with God in the heavens with Barbara and your precious daughter as your wing women.
    L. Miller, MCPO (AC), USN, Retired

  • 1chrisford1

    Go away, Lefty flea.

  • Shane D.

    As a former Coast Guard/Navy aviator, this special “Flown West” formation is well deserved. He was an inspiration to all Military pilots, and will never be forgotten.

  • fredbailey

    He earned every bit of it…thank you, sir, for your service to America.

  • AesopSC

    Just for the record, it’s spelled “interment”

  • rotorhead1871

    so cool!!….cant wait to see the video!!

  • old guy

    A WELL EARNED TRIBUTE TO A GREAT AMERICAN.

  • Alan Howell

    I sure hope they will have a surprise flyby at his funeral of at least one TBM Avenger like President Bush flew during the war . I’ve heard nothing mentioned of this, but it sure would be a moving and beautiful gesture to honor him with.

  • Very expensive. I remember when Republicans were the ones who wanted to reduce spending.

    Every time a fighter jet takes off – that’s at least $50,000.

  • NavySubNuke

    An awesome and well deserved honor, hopefully I can see it from my office!

  • RobM1981

    BRAVO
    ZULU

    Godspeed, Lieutenant – and Mr. President.

  • Bigred37

    ME THINKS YOU GOT MY POINT
    !

  • Nobody

    As a retired US Army NCO may I suggest painting the Missing Man Plane the same color as Bushes plane in WWII, that Navy Blue of the time. I mean come on the US Navy can pull this off, you buy nuclear power aircraft carriers and submarines, nuclear tipped ICBMs. Lets get real, you guys have a few extra million lying on the floor when you refuel a nuclear reactor., you can get some supply officer and go get the paint. Just some NCO counseling.

    • Nobody

      Better yet have Capt. Dale Snodgrass train some F-18 pilots to fly slow with a Grumman TBF Avenger in the formation, as tight and smooth as The Flight Of The Cats. Now that is impressive flying.