Team McConnell salutes COVID-19 heroes

  • Published
  • By Maj. Andrea Morris
  • 931st Air Refueling Wing

On Wednesday, May 6, a formation of McConnell tankers accompanied by the historic B-29 Bomber "Doc" flew over 11 area hospitals in the greater Wichita area under Operation America Strong.

The flyovers were a salute to the thousands of local healthcare workers, first responders and other essential personnel engaged in the frontline battle against COVID-19.

"Team McConnell takes great pride in being part of this community," said Col. Richard Tanner, 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander. "We are thrilled to have the opportunity to show our appreciation and solidarity to the thousands of heroes who are working tirelessly to battle COVID-19."

It was an hour-long flight consisting of two KC-135 Stratotankers and a KC-46A Pegasus from McConnell, followed closely by Wichita’s own B-29 Superfortress "Doc." The aircraft flew from Newton to Mulvane, Andale to El Dorado and all the cities in between, tipping their hats — or wings — to not only the COVID-19 heroes but also to the local city residents.

The flyover salute was a total force effort between the 22nd Air Refueling Wing, the Air Force Reserve 931st Air Refueling Wing and the Kansas Air National Guard 184th Wing, all located on McConnell Air Force Base.

"The flyover is a unique way for Team McConnell to thank those in the community who have worked diligently on the COVID-19 response," said Col. Jason Knobbe, 184th Wing commander. "The 184th Wing is honored to be a part of Team McConnell to honor these unsung heroes who are putting their lives on the line every day."

In addition to being a salute, the flight also symbolized over 70 years of aviation in the air capital of the world, featuring the Air Force’s newest tanker along with the historic bomber from World War II.

Col. Phil Heseltine, 931st Air Refueling Wing commander, was one of the pilots in the formation.

"The opportunity to showcase both the KC-135 and KC-46, while flying in close formation with Doc, magnificently illustrates seamless community commitment to myriad McConnell Airmen and their families-from World War II to today — and for me is very special," said Heseltine. 

Team McConnell and the greater city of Wichita are in the battle against COVID-19 but unifying events such as the flyover show that both will emerge stronger, together.