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Home of the Brave

The experience of a flyover is one of the most awesome displays of military force in all of sports.  The sheer speed, deafening roar and the fact it all comes from above, are enough to demand everyone’s attention.  At that moment we are all one, Americans.  The flyover is not confined to just the Super Bowl.  College Bowl games, Indy 500, U.S. Open Tennis, Major League Baseball All-Star and World-Series games, NASCAR events, and the Army-Navy Football Game are included.  The flyovers are also used to celebrate or remember historical events that have occurred during time of conflict.  Flyovers over London, England and Normandy, France occur every year.    

I experienced my first flyover in person in 1992, during Super Bowl XXVII, at the Rose Bowl.  Garth Brooks sang the National Anthem as the Blue Angel Navy jets roared overhead at the end of the anthem.  Then the Cowboys promptly beat the Bills.  It was exciting, exhilarating, and powerful.  It made me feel patriotic, intense, and invincible.  The adrenaline rush makes the hair actually stand up on your arms and neck.  I have attended five different Super Bowls, several MLB All-Star Games and World Series Games, and many NASCAR events.  The flyovers at each of these events were incredible.  They just never got old.  The flyover has become tradition, a part of the build-up of some of the greatest sporting events in this country.  And to think it all happens right at the end of the singing of our National Anthem. 

The singing of our anthem can vary from one performer to another, but it generally lasts about one minute and 15 seconds.  On January 27, 1991, in Tampa, Florida, just seconds after Whitney Houston finished singing the last note of our anthem before Super Bowl XXV, four Air Force F-16 jet fighter and attack planes, in formation, thundered overhead at that precise moment.  How do they do that?  TOT, or “time on target,” is just another day for our military.  When you combine a specific time, with takeoff, distance, and air speed, and a forward air-traffic controller inside the stadium for last-minute guidance, you receive and experience the flyover as the last notes “and the home of the brave” are being sung.  These aircraft often come from long distances and there is a holding area provided above each event, out of sight of the stadium.  This is where the man on the ground comes in.  He is giving last-second instructions on the timing of the song, as the aircraft comes in sight.  The pilot can now actually hear the anthem being played inside his cockpit as they approach.  The Air Force B-52H Stratofortress Bomber, the Navy F/A-18 Hornet Fighter Jets, and the CH-53 Echo Super Stallion Helicopter have all been used at different sporting events.  The only challenge comes from the weather.

The average cost of a flyover is estimated at 450,000 dollars.  The costs of flyovers are part of our military budget.  Of course that bill is footed by us, the taxpayers.  Is it worth it?  According to the Navy, it’s more than worth their efforts.  They claim that operating during a time of all-volunteer armed services, it’s important to show the strength of our armed forces and that the flyovers attract many proud young men and women to the Navy or Marines.  These flyovers also provide our pilots more time in the air, which in turn keeps them sharp and ready.

On this Sunday, February 2, Super Bowl XLVIII will be played in New Jersey at Metlife Stadium.  It will look and sound awesome on television, but it will be nothing compared to being there.  At the writing of this article, the name of the National Anthem singer has not been released. 

As you gather with your friends and sit into that large comfortable chair, surrounded by football food and drinks, make sure and remember that the flyover is a reminder that we can all sleep safely tonight at home in our beds, because our military is out there literally watching over us from above and protecting our freedoms.  God Bless America!


Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or andy.purvis@grandecom.net.