As part of a “Salute to WNY,” a 914th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 from the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and three F-35 fighter wings from the Vermont National Guard flew over parts of Western New York on Tuesday to salute frontline COVID-19 health care workers, essential employees and emergency responders. The planes were slated to fly over almost a dozen-and-a-half locations throughout the late morning.
On the NFARS website, 328th ARS Director of Operations Lt. Col. Ben Canetti said the aircraft were granted final approval to fly in the restricted airspace above the City of Niagara Falls.
“There’s a lot of limitations when planning a flyover to ensure the safest environment possible,” he said. “None of this would have been possible without the help of the Federal Aviation Administration, Air Transport Canada, and Buffalo Approach Control. We wish we could visit every location across Western New York, but we’re limited to time, resources and fuel.”
Canetti said the route was based on population density to safely fly over as many locations as possible before being required to return to base.
“If we could fly over all of Western New York, we would. This is our salute to everyone in Western New York that’s in this fight,” he said.
The flyover was directly following required aerial refueling training operations for the two wings. Scheduled “stops” included Eastern Niagara Hospital in Lockport, Mount St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston, Niagara Falls International Airport, DeGraff Memorial Hospital, University at Buffalo, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo Niagara International Airport, St. Joseph Campus, Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, Buffalo General Medical Center, John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Erie County Medical Center, Sisters of Charity Hospital, VA Western New York Healthcare System, Kenmore Mercy Hospital and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.
A Niagara County Sheriff’s Office drone captures the flight of Mount St. Mary’s during the 914th’s flyover. (Courtesy of the NCSO/Mount St. Mary’s Hospital)
Mount St. Mary’s staff formed a heart with the American flag in the middle of it to thank the Air Force for the flyover. (Courtesy of Mount St. Mary’s Hospital)
The planes fly high above the Summit Mall and Niagara Falls International Airport in Wheatfield. (Photo by David Yarger)