What is a Military Flyover?

History of the Flyover

On September 5, 1918, 60 United States Army biplanes soared over game one of the World Series. Fans who had gathered to watch the Cubs and Red Sox battle it out for baseball supremacy gazed skyward in awe at the first military flyover in world history.

What began on that cool fall day continues more than 100 years later. But what is the purpose for these thunderous, fast and low-flying performances from our nation’s finest?

A Continuing Tradition

Like the inaugural flyover at the 1918 World Series, today’s spectacles of military prowess serve the same end: Promote our armed services and foster enlistments.

Those lucky enough to reside near Air Force Bases likely witness the power of military aircraft regularly. But for individuals beyond the reach of military practice, flyovers provide an otherwise inaccessible and intimate look at the remarkable electricity sparked in the skies by a screaming jet or hulking bomber. Impressive? We think so.

B-17 Short Bier

Not Just the Air Force

The Air Force isn’t the only branch of the military that erupts the still air above stadiums and crowded street festivals into a roar. The army, marine corps and navy all participate in flyovers throughout the nation.

In 2009, three Navy F/A-18 Hornet jets flew over game two of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. Four Army AH-64 Apache helicopters thumped over the National Mall in Washington, D.C., as part of the Independence Day celebration in 2019. And the nation got its first look at the new Sikorsky VH-92A Marine One helicopter during this same July 4 celebration.

Flyover: Defined

So, now you understand this American military tradition a bit better and why it’s carried out, but what exactly constitutes a flyover? The Air Force definition says, “one straight and level pass of one to four aircraft of the same type from the same military service and not involving aerobatics or aircraft demonstrations.” So, don’t expect to see the Thunderbirds’ stunt pilots and tricks over a baseball game or Nascar race. You’ll have to attend an air show, like Utah’s Warriors Over the Wasatch for that.

The Cost of a Flyover

For any reader wondering how much these extravagant displays of American ingenuity cost, rest assured that the cost of flyovers become part of the military’s training budgets, since they are essentially training missions. Pilots need a certain number of hours in the air to stay current in their qualifications, so it’s a great way to provide training and demonstrate their skills to the American public.

Need Your Flying Machine Fix?

If you aren’t lucky enough to witness a flyover this season, don’t fret! The Hill Aerospace Museum is always here to fulfill your inner aviator longings. Visit us between Monday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Did we mention? Admission to the Hill Aerospace Museum is FREE! Although, voluntary donations do go a long way to help us maintain a museum full of vintage and contemporary aircraft.

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