Today the Navy flew a 21-jet flyover in honor of late naval aviator and 41st president George H.W. Bush. Bush died Nov. 30 at the age of 94.
More than 70 years after his near-fatal bombing mission in World War II – when his TBM Avenger operating from aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto was shot out of the sky – Bush maintained an extraordinarily close relationship with the aircraft carrier that bore his name, USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77). The Norfolk-based carrier honored Bush this week with a flashlight vigil at sea, and by sending 115 sailors from the crew to help receive Bush’s remains at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland ahead of his casket lying in state at the Capitol Rotunda.
30 F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets from Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia departed this week for Texas, where 21 of them today flew a massive missing man formation over the interment ceremony in College Station, Texas. Bush was buried at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum alongside his wife, Barbara, and daughter, Robin.
The Navy has never flown this kind of 21-jet formation to honor a fallen aviator or statesman. When former presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford died, the Air Force performed similar 21-plane flyovers with F-15Es from the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.
According to a Navy news release, the sea service took the Air Force’s formation and put a spin on it, flying the first four four-jet formations in the shape of a diamond instead of the “fingertip formation” shape, and altering the timing of the flyover.
“It’s special because not only was he the 41st president, but he was also a naval aviator,” Cmdr. Justin Rubino, who served as the forward air controller on the ground during the flyover, said in the news release.
“He flew off aircraft carriers just like we do today, and that’s a bond all of us share. He’s one of us. Sure he was the president of the United States, yes, but he was also a naval aviator.”