An unprecedented presidential flyover planned for George HW Bush

Elizabeth Howe
December 05, 2018 - 1:26 pm

Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 2nd Class Sarah Myers

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Missing man formations generally involve no more than four aircraft. Late President George HW Bush's missing man formation will include 21 Navy F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets. The lead fighter will be inscribed with "George HW Bush '41.'"

Bush flew 58 combat missions during World War II as the youngest Navy pilot of his time. The missing man formation, unprecedented in size, will commemorate his military service and the decades of service he offered the country afterward. 

Commander of Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, Capt. Kevin McLaughlin, will fly the lead plane in Thursday's formation. He joined the Navy under Bush's presidential administration. In addition to the president's name, McLaughlin's aircraft will also be painted with Barbara Bush's name on the cockpit and backseat. 

"A missing man flyover is symbolic of the departure of one of the members of our squadron, members of our air wing, and in this case, our Navy," he told Business Insider. "It's a symbolic final farewell to a great man who left a tremendous legacy of selfless service to his nation and his family behind."

On Tuesday, 30 aircraft left Naval Air Station Oceana to fly to College Station, Texas for the flyover. According to WTKR, the 30 aircraft come from eight different squadrons: 

  • 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 “GoldenWarriors"

"In my entire career, I've never seen that done but it's a small but fitting tribute to the president and the first lady," McLaughlin said of the size of the formation.

"Being selected to participate in this memorial is one of the highest honors a Naval Aviator can receive," commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic Rear Adm. Roy Kelley told the Virginian Pilot. "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."

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