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US Navy to perform 21-jet flyover in largest-ever formation to honor George H.W. Bush

The U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, perform a flyover during a graduation and commissioning ceremony for the Naval Academy Class of 2015. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Anthony Koch/Released)
December 06, 2018

The second funeral service of former President George H.W. Bush will take place today in Texas, and the U.S. Navy will honor the former Commander-in-Chief in an unprecedented fashion.

To honor the 41st President – also a U.S. Navy veteran who fought in World War II – a flyover will take place over the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, consisting of 21 fighter jets in the largest missing-man formation in history, USNI reported Tuesday.

The flyover is expected to take place at 4:15 p.m. CST, which is an hour behind Eastern Time.

The one-of-a-kind formation is in honor of the former President’s military career as a Naval Aviator.

“Being selected to participate in this memorial is one of the highest honors a Naval Aviator can receive,” said Rear Adm. Roy Kelley, Commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic. “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.”

On Wednesday, 30 F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets took off from Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia to head to Texas for the Thursday ceremony. The jets hail from various squadrons, including:

  • 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”
  • VFA-87, the “Golden Warriors”

An F/A-18F will lead the large formation, bearing the names “President George H.W. Bush ‘41’” and “Barbara ‘First Lady’” on its side.

Bush was one of the youngest aviators in U.S. Navy history, enlisting just after turning 18. Also at age 18, he earned his Wings of Gold, a coveted commendation after a grueling qualification process.

During a bombing mission on Japan in 1944, Bush’s Avenger torpedo bomber was shot down. He instructed his crew members to jump from the plane, and he hit his head on the plane’s tail while jumping from the burning aircraft as it went down, The Drive reported.

He soon discovered that his crew didn’t survive. Hours later, he was rescued by the USS Finback submarine in a stroke of luck. Other crews weren’t so fortunate. After they were shot down and captured by the Japanese, many were tortured or killed.

Bush Sr. passed away in his Houston home late Friday at the age of 94. He battled vascular parkinsonism and was repeatedly hospitalized for pneumonia and other respiratory conditions over the past few years.

Bush Sr.’s casket was transported via Air Force One to Washington on Monday where it remained in the Capitol Rotunda for the public to pay their respects until Wednesday morning. President Donald Trump declared Wednesday a National Day of Mourning to honor the late President.

An hour-and-a-half-long funeral ceremony took place at the Washington National Cathedral on Wednesday.

After Wednesday’s services, the President’s remains were carried one last time back to Houston, where they laid before the public at the St. Martin’s Episcopal Church before the second funeral service on Thursday.

The former President’s final resting place will be the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Center at Texas A&M University. He will be buried alongside his wife Barbara who died in this past April, and their daughter Robin, who died in 1953 at just 3 years old.

The late President leaves behind five children: former President George W. Bush, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, businessmen Neil Bush and Marvin Bush, and author Dorothy Bush Koch.