Continuing a long-time tradition, F-16 fighter aircraft from Hill Air Force Base soared over community parades across the Wasatch Front and thrilled crowds at the Stadium of Fire celebration in Provo on Independence Day.
The flyovers began the morning of July 4th when a four-ship from Utah's only Air Force Reserve unit, the 419th Fighter Wing, flew above 19 parade routes. The 419th FW has supported Northern Utah community flyovers for nearly 30 years and holds the Air Force record for the most flyovers on the patriotic holiday.
"It's truly a great privilege to participate in these local celebrations year after year," said Maj. Bart "Face" Wilbanks. "The state of Utah extends the very best military support in the entire world and we are extremely lucky to be part of the community. As reservists, we understand that without this outstanding support it would be nearly impossible for us to balance our civilian jobs with our military service. These flights are one way we can say thanks."
Later that evening, four more F-16s from Hill's active duty 388th Fighter Wing soared above LaVell Edwards Stadium at Brigham Young University to kick off the Stadium of Fire celebration -- one of the largest Independence Day events in the country, boasting about 50,000 attendees. The 388th FW has flown over the stadium on July 4th for nearly 20 years.
"As a 2002 BYU graduate, I'm thrilled to see the stadium from a bird's-eye view," said Capt. Thomas "Grip" Nelson. "We're honored and proud to be part of this great celebration of the freedoms we are privileged to enjoy as Americans."
Hill F-16 pilots are highly trained and experienced -- those from the 419th FW who are doing the holiday parade flyovers have a combined 12,150 hours in the F-16 and 22 combat tours. Most of the 388th FW pilots who flew over the stadium have recently supported Operation Enduring Freedom missions in Afghanistan and were deployed for six-month stretches.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is capable of Mach 2, and able to carry more than three tons of precision guided bombs and air-to-air missiles. It has been in the Air Force arsenal since 1979.