MacDill KC-135s to fly over Tampa Bay in show of thanks to COVID-19 first responders

The Tampa Bay area got skipped in the first round of first-responder flyovers by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angels, but the hometown folks at MacDill Air Force Base are planning their own show of support.

A pair of KC-135 refueling tankers from MacDill’s 6th Air Refueling Wing and 927th Air Refueling Wing will perform a flyover of the area’s major medical centers in a homegrown salute to COVID-19 first responders.

“This community goes out of their way to honor our sacrifices,” said Col. Stephen Snelson, the 6th Air Refueling Wing’s commander. “This is an honor for us to be able to display our gratitude to these warriors who protect our base and this community from this horrible virus.”

MacDill is home to U.S. Central Command and U. S. Special Operations Command, in addition to the refueling wing. 

Courtesy MacDill AFB

A small medical team from the base was already deployed to New York City to help battle the outbreak there, as the 927th Air Refueling Wing’s commander pointed out.

“This flight is a way to honor all health care workers and first responders and remind them we are all in this together,” offered Col. Douglas Stouffer. 

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Last week, the Blue Angels – who were scheduled to highlight this year’s now-canceled AirFest at MacDill – performed a flyby over Jacksonville and Miami after joint flyovers with the Thunderbirds in the Northeast. But their route bypassed Tampa.

KC-135s are a common sight in the skies over South Tampa. (FOX 13 file photo)

Friday, two KC-135 Stratotankers will leave the South Tampa base and start a loop around the bay, heading as far south as Sarasota.

According to a base spokesman, the tankers will launch from MacDill around 10:30 a.m. and head south towards the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.  After a short delay, the formation will head back north along the bay, turn south and follow I-75 to Sarasota, and then turn north through St Petersburg before returning to the base over downtown. 

They will fly over these 12 hospitals and medical centers along their route:

- Tampa General (Davis Islands)

- Brandon Regional (Brandon)

- Riverview Regional (Riverview)

- South Bay Hospital (Sun City Center)

- Sarasota Memorial (Sarasota) 

- St. Anthony’s (St. Petersburg): 

- St. Pete General Women’s Hospital (St. Petersburg)

- Bay Pines VA (St. Petersburg)

- Largo Medical Center (Largo)

- Children’s Medical Center (Westchase)

- Tampa General North (Carrollwood)

- University of South Florida (North Tampa) 

- Tampa General (Davis Islands)

MAP: Click to enlarge route map

The route is an estimate and may vary, a base spokesman noted. Further details on timing will be released later.

Residents are advised to stay home to watch the flyovers and not congregate in any mass gatherings.