Stop Blue Angel Flyovers Saluting COVID-19 Responders!

Empty displays of ritual militarism are always a waste of time, money, and goodwill, but especially during a pandemic.


The country is in lockdown in response to the novel coronavirus, the federal government has voted to spend nearly $3 trillion to stabilize the economy, and over 72,000 Americans have died in the past two months.

So why not toss a truly meaningless gesture that adds rank militarism into the equation? A week ago, I watched the Navy's Blue Angels and the Air Force's Thunderbirds, demonstration flight squads, fly over New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic, in a "tribute" to first responders, doctors, nurses, and other people involved in treating the sick and dying. Now the Angels have made it to Texas, where the governor, Greg Abbott, is acting as an advance man for this display of aviation excellence.

Such displays are both a waste of time and money and an insult to the hard work and suffering going on. The website Gothamist tallied up various estimates of what it costs to have the Blue Angels do a flyover and came up with a pretty fat figure: as much as $450,000 per mission. Task & Purpose, a website that covers military and defense issues, reports that the Pentagon is sending the squadrons to at least 22 cities at a cost of at least $1.3 million, or "enough to purchase dozens of ventilators at, say, $20,000 a pop." Jared Keller comments:

"Ensuring that VA medical facility staff, as well as clinical and administrative employees, have the appropriate PPE to protect their health and the health of the veterans they serve is essential to countering the pandemic," a group of senators wrote in a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie this week. Busting out the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds, while entertaining, is not.

The Pentagon dutifully contends that because the members of the squads need to train anyway, these flyovers "incur no additional cost to taxpayers." Well, maybe it's time to reconsider such ornamental luxuries, then. Judging by recent, profligate legislation coming out of Congress, the federal government has signaled it is willing to make current and future taxpayers bear any burden and meet any hardship when it comes to spending public dollars. The least it can do is ask the people being honored how they want money to be wasted.

NEXT: Coronavirus Has Devastated Uber and Lyft's Business. Now California Is Suing Them.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Calm down, karen

    1. After the Deep Sate coup against a POTUS elect and the underhanded illegal corruption of the Intelligence and Law Enforcement establishments to promote one candidate and entrap a bunch of innocent supporters of the other, its good to see Fonzie can finally muster some righteous anger at outrage over the important stuff

    2. Nardz,

      nailed it. I read this and was said are you serious? this is not a waste of money at all people need something to bring them together as the country falls prey to the pandemic. Stop being a Karen and enjoy the show.

  2. Like we needed the oh so tired boomer anti-war take.

    1. If they can’t provide simple face masks and ventilators because the captains of capitalism have sent all its manufacturing to the commies in China, and they don’t want to give those front line workers a raise in pay, do what the Romans did, give the people a circus instead.

      Has nothing to do with antiwar, has to do with logic. The US can’t supply simple face masks, but it prides itself for being able to drone (assassinate without due process) anyone, anywhere in the world at any time. Obviously, killing people is more profitable than saving them.

      1. Well, that’s free markets for you.
        No one ever moved manufacturing to China to make a better product. Its all about cheaper. Not only are our markets flooded with cheap, sub-standard goods, we have lost the ability to return manufacturing to the US.
        And for icing on the cake, we are hemorrhaging money while doing so.

      2. Guess you missed the memo about the masks, ventilators, hand sanitiser, test kits and processing, etc. seems it were US GOvernment regulatioins, licensing, testing, etc, that prevented US based busiensses from producing these things right when we needed them. Then there were the thousands of venitlators Cuomo forced to be collected in uptate NY, brought them down to NYC hositals, now no one v=can find them, and it appears someone sold them at a bargain discount to some foreign nation, which I seem to recall was China…. Main reason we “ren out of “masks here is the hoarders…. bought them all up in a few days. Ten years’ supply, gone. In someone’s garage, all accross the country.
        Was at the market this evening, nearly everyone was wearing something slapped over their mugs…. I studied them pretty closely, and did not see ONE that was properly made AND fitted/used. ALL of them were near worthless as far as protecting those other than the wearer from contamination. NOT ONE OF THEM would protect the wearer from contaminatioin IF there were anything to “catch” lurking about. The whole charade of masks, “social distancing”, etc, is pure theatre, concocted to make US feel like we’re DOING something, and t FEEL “safe”, but these sorts of measures fail at even that.

      3. Ok boomer, now shut the fuck up

  3. There is almost certainly very little extra monetary cost due to the acrobatic teams. Pilots have to fly a certain minimum to stay proficient, planes have to be maintained, and about the only extra costs are a few special brochures, someone has to select the paint schemes, said paint schemes are slightly more complicated to apply and probably get touched up more often.

    1. I mean …. if your objection is to the blatant militarism, then why not get rid of the military altogether? Wouldn’t bother me — our military is an entirely offensive (in the military sense) military. Nothing defense at al about carriers and amphibious ships and nuclear submarines wandering the world. No country in the world is so stupid as to try to actually invade us, with all the militia who would jump their ass in record time.

      But if that’s not your argument, then your argument is meaningless snowflaking. I’d rather the public knows they have a military than try to hide it just to avoid upsetting anti-militarists. Fleet Week — is that a scary public relations stunt also? Maybe the Coast Guard should stop wearing scary military uniforms, and then we can start dressing up police in nice flowery peaceful clothing that doesn’t reek of the military.

      1. Disagree with part of your statement, Carriers and Subs are out there to keep the sea lanes open, case in point the South China Sea and the East Coast of Africa. The Army on the other hand as is being used in other countries is offensive. You often hear about how bad it was that we had such a small army in 1940, but that is the way it is supposed to be when we are not in a declared war. That is what the national guard is there for, when a war is eminent or has been declared you call them up and institute a draft if needed. Since WWII we have been involved with land operations over and over because if you gottem why not use’m. Until recently Navies where pretty useless for land warfare. Only with the advent of cruise missiles and precision weapons did they pose a serious threat to land targets.

        1. And boomers are absolutely a defensive world.
          We might not like nukes, but they exist.
          Having the ability to use them at the very least slows down the decision making process of potential aggressors

          1. World?
            Weapon is the word

            1. Bird, as in thunderbird, is the word.

        2. Yeah, I would say a very strong Navy is the most “libertarian” type of military. Carriers, subs, and the rest of the blue water fleet allow us to protect ourselves and our interests without setting foot on sovereign soil unless absolutely necessary. Ground troops at foreign bases, etc. are more problematic from a libertarian standpoint. There is the additional benefit that it is much more difficult to use naval assets against your own citizens should the mood strike. This, of course, is the root of the theory that Britain’s monarchy shared significant power with a parliament much earlier than continental European nations (and as a result, ended up preserving itself where others were overthrown) because its defenses were primarily naval and thus the monarchy did not have a substantial standing land army with which to keep their boot on the nobles in particular and the citizens in general.

          1. I did not argue against any military, or at least did not mean to leave that impresssion. I meant that if Nick is against any military, blah blah blah.

            But this — “protect ourselves and our interests” — shows how the concept of “defensive” has been warped until no one can think straight any more. Defending my house does not include defending “my interests” outside the house, such as the grocery store, gas station, Home Depot, ad infinitum. If you think that expansive definition is hunky dory, you no longer understand “defensive” and may as well join the neocon camp.

            Carriers are NOT defensive. Any defensive trait that have is far better served by land planes.

        3. If the world agreed on fair trade practices, there would be no need of aircraft carriers playing the seas to insure trade routes. The English Navy was used to conquer colonies, and to keep any other nation out of their colonies. In other words it was used to enslave ohter weaker nations and to eliminate competition from any other coutnry who would give the enslaved nations a better deal. Free trade is the largerst hoax ever perpetrated on Americans. There is no such thing, all global corporations aspire to eliminate competition and to control markets. This insures profits as you can control prices. The military is used as a protection racket to enforce the global corporate take over of other nation’s resources economies. The most modern example is the invasion of Iraq. Military invasion of a much weaker country, that would not fight back, for the sole purpose of pilfering their oil, while justifying it by spreading lies about Iraq doing 9/11 and having WMDs. You don’t see the US carrier fleet being use to attack formidable opponents like the Russians. It is always used to attack small, defensless weaker countries who only crime is to have valuable resources. Please go read Major General Smedley Butler’s “War is a Racket”. He was not an antiwar, anti military pinko fag, he was the most decorated marine in his time.

          1. Just an FYI, the Russians are no longer considered a “formidable” opponent. As one person put it, the largest air force in the world is the United States Air Force. The 2nd largest is the United States Navy. The United states is really the only country operating a true blue water navy (two oceans, 100% of the time). We have to have 12 carriers because 2/3 of the carriers are in port at any one time – that leaves 4 out there. BTW, something like 80 planes a piece, that’s 160 planes per ocean. There are not many countries that could even stand up 160 planes.

            1. For the next five minutes.

              China will eclipse the US military within a decade or so. They’ve already passed our total economy, and they are gaining on a per-capita basis.

              They just launched their 6-man space capsule that is capable of going to the moon. Their technology is catching up.

              They are developing many different military drones as well.

              Enjoy it while it lasts. Might makes right they say. And cold hard cash is the biggest part of getting some might.

          2. Will fair trade practices somehow put an end to piracy?

      2. No country would invade us because the ones that might have the capability to occupy a country with this size and population would have to first cross the oceans where all those carriers and submarines are operating. Canada or Mexico would have to conscript their entire population to be able to occupy some portion of the interior farmland or maybe part of one of the coasts.

        1. No one would invade us because the territory is far too big, the population far too well armed, and the infrastructure far too spread out to be capable of being conquered. Got nothing to do with carriers and subs.

          You sound like all the idiots in WW II who claimed the Japanese were going to invade the west coast. They didn’t even have enough merchant shipping to invade Hawaii, let alone occupy it. Their 6 carrier lost a quarter of their planes in two raids, one of which was a surprise. Another day or two and they’d have lost so many as to be defenseless.

          Basic military logistics are far more important than bragging about carriers and subs. The Japanese ignored that.

    2. Uh, the paint schemes were chosen in the nineteen fifties and haven’t changed since then. Probably they get repainted every year, but then so does every F-16 and F-18 in the inventory. And the fuel needs to be burned anyway, as these guys need to remain current (I wonder what’s happening now with private pilots, who have much laxer current rules). You may not like the symbolism but the cost is budget microdust–not only not a rounding error, it’s below the hundredth decimal of a percent. Now, if you want real savings, we could start with thirteen nuclear carriers, dozens of attack subs, dozens of missile subs and gazillions of F-16s, F-18s, F-22s, an ever-increasing number of vastly overpriced F-35s and God only knows what other gadgets. Not to mention probably thousands of drones ranging from CVS-sized toys to hundreds of Reapers the size of F-16s that have killed people anywhere in the world whenever Bush, Obama or Trump feel like it.

  4. They do it because the time has already been budgeted so why waste the money. At least they are doing something to earn their pay unlike other government employees that are getting payed to stay home.

    1. It’s also a means of advertising for new recruits, akin to buying a Super Bowl ad.

      Stupid premise for an article.

      1. And not just for pilots (which we _were_ short on) but for the entire infrastructure. Its good to know how to move a small squadron, what equipment to take, what maintenance needs to be performed on strange airports around the world etc. while maintaining a very high readiness rate (with BTW, junk airplanes. The Blue Angles get the F18 from the mothballed fleet and rebuild them…) The military is not as dumb as it looks. They understand the value of a movie like Top Gun to their recruitment efforts. It is, at the end of the day, an all volunteer force.

  5. Nick, you are an absolute grump of a spoil sport.

    Now go take your indignation and put it where it may be of some use.

  6. If it is good for public morale it is worth it. We have an air show here every year. Don’t know if it will happen this time. We go downtown to watch the jets and it is just jaw dropping awesome. The air force also has other things for the public to enjoy. If you are ever there or passing through, the museum at Wright Patterson in Dayton Ohio is well worth a day trip.

    Just a personal story. My daughter got married on the same day as the air show. The ceremony was semi outdoors in one of those canopy things. As we were rehearsing and getting ready the jets would circle around in formation with that thunderous sound. Everyone just stopped and looked up. One of the guests turned and said “Wow. Did you see that?”

    I said. “Yup. Forget the florist and caterer. You have no idea what I had to pay extra for that”

    1. When I got married in 1987, the whole night sky lit up in a supernova!

      You have NO idea how much I had to pay God AND the Intergalactic Space Aliens to arrange THAT!

      1. Most Righteous Feelz, my post was addressed to Mr. Spinner.

        Nevertheless, how are you?

        Did you hear about the skydiver whose parachute malfunctioned?

        He died of Covid-19.

        1. How am I? The entire rest of my life, post-1987-wedding-celebration supernova, has been a let-down, compared to that awesome show!

          Seriously, I have read that people like moon-walking astronauts and gold-winning Olympic winners (etc.) sometimes feel that the rest of their lives are boring… What do you do after THAT?!?!

          1. Marry a celebrity who divorced O.J.’s lawyer friend and then transition.

            1. Or better yet, be like Hooker Hulk Hogan, sleep with your neighbor’s wife, and get paid $115 million for it! Money collected for you by Uncle Sugar / Pimp Daddy!


              About Hooker Hulk Hogan…
              Why do the rich, powerful, and famous have FAR more “free expression” rights than dirt-poor people?
              Dirt-poor hookers turn a $50 or $100 “trick” in the streets? Off to jail with them! Courtesy of Government Almighty!

              Hooker Hulk Hogan turns a $115 million trick? Government Almighty is his Chief Hit-man Enforcer to collect his $115 million payment-due for turning the trick! I think we all (the public and the taxpayers) are the “trick” that are getting fucked in these kinds of “free expressions” of those who hit the lawsuit lottery jackpot for being low-life SCUM!

              1. No Hulkomania for you!

          2. You eat your own shit. You said so.

      2. “When I got married in 1987, the whole night sky lit up in a supernova!”

        That’s what She said.

        Good one SQRLSY.

    2. You know what would be more jaw dropping awesome?

      Cancelling all of the air shows because of safety concerns. What about all of the pilot deaths? Don’t you care about the pilots? Their families? Their children?

      If the political branches, advised by safety experts, conclude that it is just too risky to continue with the air shows, why should you object?

      1. Are they wearing masks? Then they are safe.

      2. I just worry about the little guy who walks out onto the wings in the middle of the show.

  7. Wow. That got her all upset. Aren’t there more important things to bitch about?
    One could argue that the military is trying to boost public morale by offering a free air show that people can watch live, but while social distancing. This article makes Stossel blathering about plastic bags seems spot on and super important, by comparison. Isn’t there any real news in the world, or did most of the Reason staff just flake this week, and do their work at the last moment.

    1. Karen Gillespie

      1. Wait til Karen finds out the manager is a certain Orange Man.

    2. YOu should see the article on the epidemic of false rape allegations– currently being racked up at a rate of 20/yr. That’s what is really important for libertarians– not a trillion dollar defense budget so we can watch a bunch of people in the army stick their thumbs up their butts.

  8. WTF this is the most ridiculous thing to complain about right now. Please focus your efforts on the tyrannical nature of our state and federal governments and how they flaunt the law and our civil rights each and every day.

    And no I don’t mean rights of illegal aliens, hookers, strippers, drug dealers, and the rest of the scum and villainy of the country.

    1. Leviathan anywhere is a threat to liberty everywhere.

      1. Meaning, I assume, Leviathan needs to make sure that you know he is Leviathan and can wipe you off the map like swatting a fly.

        Leviathan, or Bread and Circuses, it all looks about the same to me. Hopefully it just doesn’t end the same way, but it probably will.

  9. came from the north hospitals we could see them for about 10 miles then they smoked up right over my office parking garage this morning – i’m right by another hospital – then they flew downtown and smoked up over Parkland it was beautiful.

    1. You betcha…and worth every dime.

  10. Sorry folks, they didn’t buzz your house while you were eating lunch.

    Since I’ve been avoiding the local 24/7 covid19 hysteria on the idiot box, I was unaware that there was a flyover occurring today.


    1) It was a waste, as far as I was concerned. I wonder how many medical folks were aware, or had the time to go watch it?

    2) These guys were LOW! 500ft? 1000? Dunno, not my expertise, but by the time I jumped up to see WTF was going on and got to a window, they were low on the horizon.

    3) With an air base 5 miles from where I used to live, and I know what “get those things in the air now” sounds like. Post 9/11, the noise alone is enough to make you wonder if it’s time to start looking for mushroom clouds.

    Practice is fine, but this is a frickin’ joy ride at my expense.

    Ok fellow commenters, let the love begin….

    1. You should definitely call the manager and complain.

      1. C’mon, you can do better than that!

        1. I actually that was a really good line.

          +1 cronut

    2. I agree. Was it cool to watch? Yes. Was it a waste? Yes.
      Just like the National Anthem, a big waste of time. Just get the activities going for God’s sake! When I stand for the flag, I feel patriotic. When I’m told to stand for the flag, I feel like a member of a nationalist gang.

      1. “God save the queen” is more your kind of jingle

        1. God save the queen is a fine old ditty indeed, but let’s admit it, a tune that started out as drinking song can be “interesting”. If I had penned that in music theory class, I’m sure that my prof would have had some rather negative comments, but it is a good vocal workout.

          Just don’t forget that final words:

          “Play ball!”

          1. Enrico




    3. For some airshow or other doodad where they wanted a military flyover, they got a B-52 to do it. Like you, I had no idea this was going on. I’m walking back to my apartment from the grocery store, bags in hand, when I hear this overwhelming rumbling. I looked right, and saw a B-52 moving quickly, smoke out of all four pods, looking like the Angel of Death itself. It swooped over, who knows how high, and was gone in the other direction.

      I’ve been startled before by the Blue Angel’s and the Thunderbirds, back when they were allowed to sneak over the crowd from the back of the grandstands, before the Italians fucked up in a German airshow and ruined everybody’s fun. I’ve seen C-5s flying, with the old engines, looking like a beached whale, lumbering across the beach, and sounding like God Herself was dragging her nails down a chalkboard. I’ve seen fighters, A-10s, Harriers—which pack an amazing amount of sound in such a tiny, hovering dot.

      But I never felt as much in the presence of Death itself, as I did seeing one of those at near treetop level. Probably would’ve shit myself if I saw a parachute come out the bomb bay.

  11. Jesus christ.

    I can’t even enjoy the awesome planes that I’m paying for anyway, without some asshole whining about it.

    Fuck off, Karen.

    1. A Karen is one who jerks off to Leviathan’s toys that make loud noises.

      1. I already paid for those planes. I’ll jerk off to them if I want to.

        1. Thus, your admission that you are a Karen. Perhaps you are transitioning to a cuck?

          1. I was thinking about it. Do you guys have meetings or pamphlets I can check out?

          2. A Karen is someone who gets worked up over little bullshit, and insists everyone else get worked up about it too.
            Nick is the Karen here

            1. Although Libertymike is making a strong play.

      2. Um no, Karen, that is most definitely not a Karen. Karen.

  12. “…empty display of ritual milatarism…” eh?

    Such is in the eyes of the beholder. From my eyes, it was a welcome cheer for our front line defenders of all stripes. Parades, ribbons, plaques, checks, flyovers: They all are a means to give credit to whom it is directed and well-deserved.
    What’s more worth: A flyover at a football game or flyover to celebrate those who help us overcome a pandemic.

    Besides, these crack pilots needed the practice anyway. What better excuse to practice?

    1. You have the propaganda points down.

      1. Fuck off Karen

  13. Poor Nick gillespie,
    he has lost it (if he ever had it) the least he knows and understands something
    the more he writes .
    On the other hand :no writing no money right ?
    poor kid ! Blue Angels have SKILLS !
    NICK go fly a kite .

  14. It is probably a great recruitment tool for the volunteer military. “Dad, I want to grow up to be a jet pilot!”

    1. THIS is the primary reason the DOD keeps the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds around;recruiting. Sigh….

  15. USA – Back to back World War Champions!!

  16. Party pooper.

  17. During my time in the US Army, the phrase “train as you will fight” was in vogue.

    Assuming this maxim is still a guiding principle, one has to call into question the tactical wisdom of flying into combat four to six brightly painted aircraft trailing brightly colored smoke so close together than one detonating surface-to-air missle would take out the entire flight.

    So, no, not training.

  18. Gillespie is out of touch with America. The Blue Angels are paid for at taxpayer expense, for sure. And taxation is theft. But if you have ever been to one of their Fourth of July shows in Pensacola, or their shows elsewhere, it is hard not to get excited and share the crowd excitement at their aerial acrobatics. For most people, it is a thrill to watch them perform.

  19. I see nothing wrong with the government taunting the taxpayers.

  20. Because some leftist d-bag will always be offended by anything military. In the mind of the collective left we should still be subjects of the crown. I find it a sad state of affairs that people on the left have no sense of national pride. That something like the F-16 flyover of a stadium at the conclusion of the National Anthem produces only a yawn. But it is no surprise they fail to see the only reason they are free to spout their anti American bullshit is because of those who served in the military.

  21. Set aside the ignorance of a reporter writing a story. What really worries me is “a group of senators” that do not understand how the military works at all. What do they expect, the Blue Angles pilots to sit on the phone and call companies in China to see where the masks are? Uncoordinated purchasing is at best terribly in-efficient (Look at California trying to buy energy on the open markets). The military has many lanes, the Blue Angels need to stay in theirs (and they are).
    BTW, the fly-over was pretty cool around D.C. … an excuse to go outside.

    1. I will be driving just a little ways south to catch them on Friday.
      Just wondering whether I should settle for their launch base or head downtown to get the real show

  22. Boy its all warboners up above– except for LibertyMike. He seems to understand government propaganda when he sees it. Fuck those Blue Angel assholes. Every time they flew by me when I lived in the city I wished they would have taken a drink. Are we at war? No? Then I don’t wish to hear fighter planes up ahead.

    1. Relax. Those things are like the difference between the Mustang and a Shelby GT 500. Ok we have a car, now let’s break it down and see what we we can do with it. There is no practical reason for a monster truck or Dodge Hellcat Redeye other than pushing the envelope of what you can do.

      I am no expert driver. I like American type cars because they are fun to drive. Have had 3 mustangs and now a Charger R/T. No big deal just off the lot cars. My buddy down the street has a garage shop and does some classic restorations. He makes a good living doing what he enjoys. You should see the stuff he drives home.

      Air shows have been around since bi-planes. If it is not your thing fine.

  23. Aww Jake, take a chill pill slip round the corner and straighten out yer knicks, and find something GOOD to bother about. If the Blue Angels were to do their stuff anywhere within half a day’s drive, I’d be there.

    Congress just passed some pork to the tune of Tn$3, and you’re all knicker-be-knotted over a couple Mn$? Their demos aren’t just Jet A up in smoke, water vapour, and plant food. Its training for the entire crew. The money is already in their budget, so this trip is not taking a nickel away from anything else that NEEDS to be done.

    Besides, its good clean fun, exciting to watch (Live is best.. the NOISE is awesome…..) and gives the lucky few that CAN watch them d their stufff something to focus on besides all the mad governors’ edicts and slapdo…….. er.. squeeze me, lockdowns. A little feel good entertianment is good medicinefor a weary or troubled sou;, and the Lord knows there are an abundance of those about presently.

  24. Well, let’s see. When I worked in Northern CA a couple of decades ago, I got a chance to see the A-10s make dummy bombing runs on Shasta Dam. Often their flight plans took them right over my office — at tree-top level. It was way cool. The Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds are going train and practice anyway, so making a show of it doesn’t seem like that big a deal. And no, I am not going to get into the “patriotic posturing” debate. Most folks I know who go to see the Blue Angels could care less who they belong to — the government or Disney enterprises — they just want to see some spectacular flying.

  25. Okay then :

    In that same misconstrued and idiotic vein, lets see:

    When we thank First Responders like Hospital workers and Paramedics and Cops for putting their lives, and the lives of their families at risk, you say ” Heck no, it’s too expensive

    And when food store workers and long-haul truckers and the millions of other un-sung and “low level” people feed and clothe us
    you say” it’s just their blue-collar job, furget ’em”

    Why waste your breath even being a grateful and REAL human being in a time of international chaos and pain?

    Just crawl back into your all too ignorant version of “Smugville”, and let the rest of humanity to thank theses HEROES for their sacrifices.


  26. Yawn …. some times Reason writers sound like they’re without reason.

    Normal is good. Flying is normal. The flying hours are planned/scheduled, the planes are a sunk cost, and if it makes even a handful of kids or seniors less focused on or fearful of the WuFlu, it’s money well spent.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.