Military jets to cross county’s skies in salute to healthcare workers

T-34 Mentor planes fly in formation during the opening ceremony of the French Valley Wings and Wine Air Show, Saturday, Nov. 9. Shane Gibson photo

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Two jets from March Air Reserve Base in Riverside will be overflying more than a dozen medical facilities throughout the Inland Empire a week from today as part of a nationwide salute that started last month to recognize frontline health care workers.

The 90-minute flyovers from March are slated to get underway about 1 p.m. May 14, and willl involve a massive C-17 Globemaster III, which hauls cargo, and a KC-135 Stratotanker, which is an air-to-air refueling jet. Both planes and their crews — all Air Force reservists — are attached to the 452nd Air Mobility Wing.

“These flyovers incur no additional cost to the taxpayer,” according to a Wing statement. “Residents in the areas should be able to see the KC-135 and the C-17 from the safety of their homes.”

The heavy jets, under Federal Aviation Administration regulations, must stay a minimum of 1,000 feet above populated areas, but generally fly higher than that for safety, according to military officials.

The flyovers are plotted to ensure the jets pass overhead the following 17 facilities:
— Arrowhead Regional Medical Center;
— Corona Regional Medical Center;
— Desert Regional Medical Center;
— Inland Valley Regional Medical Center;
— Jerry Pettis Memorial VA Hospital;
— JFK Memorial Hospital;
— Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, in both Moreno Valley and Riverside;
— Lake Elsinore Family Care Center;
— Loma Linda Children’s Hospital;
— Menifee Global Medical Center;
— Parkview Community Hospital;
— Rancho Springs Medical Center;
— Riverside Community Hospital;
— Riverside University Medical Center;
— San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital; and
— Temecula Valley Hospital.

The event is part of “Operation America Strong,” which the U.S. Department of Defense authorized in April as a morale-booster amid the coronavirus crisis.

In some locations, the military’s aerobatics teams — the Navy’s Blue Angels and Air Force’s Thunderbirds — are engaging in flyovers.

March’s biennial March Field Air & Space Expo was canceled in early March because of the coronavirus emergency. According to base officials, the air show may be rescheduled later in the year.