How will these air demonstration squads honor frontline essential and healthcare workers? By wasting $60,000 an hour over SF and at least 30 U.S. cities to “champion national unity.”  

We here at SFist will gladly admit that we love the controversy and clicks generated by the annual love-it-or-hate-it Fleet Week and Blue Angels festivities every autumn (except 2013). But even the most pro-Blue Angel among us are going to be puzzled by today’s Washington Post report that the Pentagon plans to dispatch Blue Angels and Thunderbirds squadron shows over at least 30 American cities to honor “the front-line health-care workers” and "champion national unity.” I’m no front-line healthcare worker, but I’m pretty sure they would rather have masks, protective equipment, and ventilators than a goddamned Blue Angels flyover.

The large-scale series of squadron formations is to be called "Operation America Strong," which is such crude caveman grammar that you figure Trump came up with that name himself. Dates for these many, many planned flyovers have not been announced, but KRON4 reports that San Francisco is among the cities that will receive overhead visits from F-16 Fighting Falcons.

KRON 4’s report also notes that it will not be the Blue Angels flying over San Francisco, but instead a squad called the Thunderbirds. I was today years old when I learned that these are two separate but similar squadrons — the Blue Angels are the Navy’s air demonstration squad, while the Thunderbirds serve in that capacity for the U.S. Air Force.

The Washington Post reports that “flying the squadrons cost(s) at least $60,000 per hour,” though an Inverse report from 2017 pegs that at $60,000 to $80,000 an hour. (The F-16s coming to San Francisco cost “between $8,242 and $8,701” per hour per plane, we do not know the size of the squadron being sent.) The Post notes that money was already in the Pentagon’s budget, and with air shows being cancelled over COVID-19, it's not an extra expenditure. Moreover, these pilots do need to stay in practice and keep their skill sets sharp. But it seems frankly a ghoulish waste of money during an unprecedented health care crisis and economic meltdown, and on top of that, might attract crowds to vantage points to watch the exhibitions.

If there were some way to turn this into a charitable fundraiser for healthcare workers, protective supplies, or laid-off Americans, that might be something we could get behind. But there is no mention of any of these things in Pentagon’s announcement, just “national unity” and “tribute to our great warriors” bullshit that is clearly designed to paper over Trump’s dismal 23 percent approval of his response to the pandemic. Hopefully they will at least put so much as a donation button on the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds websites to generate contributions for essential workers. Because otherwise, wasting this much money is just using our Top Guns to shoot ourselves in the foot.

Related: Love The Blue Angels, Or Hate Those Heinous War Machines? Discuss. [SFist]

Image: @todd_diemer via Unsplash