HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (ABC4 News) – For many communities across Northern Utah, Independence Day will look very different this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
There is however one familiar tradition that will live on as Air Force Reserve pilots from the 419th Fighter Wing perform flyovers.
Utahns may catch a glimpse of four F-35A Lightning II jets as they make their way to events in Vernal and Park City, according to officials. The aircraft will fly across the Wasatch Front, to include the Salt Lake City area, beginning around 9:30 a.m. and land just after 11 a.m.
Officials say, the 419th FW’s July Fourth flyover tradition began more than 30 years ago and the wing typically supports about 20 community celebrations, but most were canceled this year due to COVID-19.
Flying the jets will be Maj. Jeff Harding, Maj. Justin Cleveland, Maj. James Russell, and Maj. Dan Toftness, who have a combined 7,700 flying hours throughout their military careers.
More than 40 maintainers and support personnel from the 419th FW and active duty 388th FW will be working on the 4th to make the flyovers happen.
The 419th FW is the first Air Force Reserve unit to fly and deploy with the operational F-35A, according to officials. They added that the 419th and 388th at Hill AFB fly and maintain a fleet of 78 jets in a Total Force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both the active duty and Reserve components.
Officials say the 419th FW is made up of nearly 1,300 personnel. These “Citizen Airmen” serve part time in the military, but are fulltime members of the local community. Most live, work, and raise families in Northern Utah. 419th FW members regularly volunteer to deploy in support of contingency operations and humanitarian efforts around the world.
The 419th FW offers a diverse range of combat capability to include F-35 operations and maintenance, as well as full-spectrum mission support such as civil engineering, security forces, medical, aerial port, firefighting, supply, and transportation. The 419th FW was the first Air Force Reserve unit to fly the F-35A Lightning II alongside the active-duty 388th FW at Hill AFB.