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    NAS Fort Worth JRB Participates in Historic Flyover Honoring President Bush

    Pilots Depart Fort Worth for Bush Memorial Flyover

    Photo By Chief Petty Officer Jacquelyn Childs | FORT WORTH, Texas (Dec. 6, 2018) Capt. Kevin "Proton" McLaughlin, commander of Strike...... read more read more

    FORT WORTH, Texas -- Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base hosted Commander, Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, along with pilots, personnel and planes from eight different squadrons based out of Oceana, Virginia, Dec. 4-6, leading up to a historic flyover at the memorial service for President George H. W. Bush in College Station, Texas.
    This particular flyover was one-of-a-kind as it is the largest to be conducted by the Navy in recent history and was used in lieu of the traditional 21-gun salute used for heads of state. Bush was a naval aviator himself which led to the Navy’s plan to have a strong naval aviation presence at this memorial service.
    “The plan all along was for a naval aviation show,” said Capt. Kevin McLaughlin, commodore, Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic. “As a carrier aviator like he was flying avengers in World War II, it was just a very fitting and apt tribute to bring together a 21-plane flyover for him with the missing-man formation at the end.”
    The tribute was long-coming as the Navy began planning a fitting tribute for the president and naval hero long before his passing in the unfortunate circumstance that something might happen so they would be prepared. McLaughlin was part of the planning and was ultimately appointed to lead the formation.
    “I’ve been blessed to have a great career in the Navy, flying fighters and deploying and lots of different accolades and honors, but by far, the most significant and probably the coolest thing I will have ever been involved with is this event,” he explained.
    Despite the preparatory planning, many things came together in a short time frame after President Bush passed away Friday. Although the original plan was to have the flyover at the ceremony in Washington D.C., it was decided to move it to his internment at College Station, Texas, a landlocked town far from the east coast fighter wing that was chosen to conduct this historic flyover.
    After some quick planning, McLaughlin flew to NAS Fort Worth JRB in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 4 with a group that included a total of four aircraft from Oceana. Twenty-six more aircraft along with the pilots and other squadron and wing personnel arrived Dec. 5 and 6 leading up to the flyover the afternoon of Dec. 6.
    “This is a huge honor for us,” said Cmdr. Pat Coffey, the air operations officer at NAS Fort Worth JRB, who coordinated efforts on the installation’s side. “I would say, from the Navy side, this is the first time since I’ve been here that the Navy has had the majority of the aircraft on the installation. Of the 75 here, we only have three. But the real deal is to be able to support President Bush. He was the youngest naval aviator, a combat veteran, a fellow Sailor and he’s always been a strong proponent of the Navy. So it’s a real honor.”

    According to Coffey, some of the hurdles the base had to overcome during the whole evolution included fueling and weather-related issues for the controllers. With only three fuel trucks dedicated to their use, the Navy relied on other assets including the Texas Air National Guard and the Air Force.
    “The thing I would say that was really beneficial is that I really think the teamwork went well,” said Coffey. “We captured all their aircraft and refueled them all since their maintainers couldn’t get here. The fuel teams were really good and efficient.”
    Perhaps the biggest hurdle of the night as some working on the airfield could testify was the inclement weather that rolled in midday Thursday with rain and cold temperatures. With the jets flying at freezing levels and a low-cloud ceiling, the base had to prepare for more delicate flight operations.
    “Coming in, we had weather down to a minimum which posed a problem for the air traffic controllers,” said Coffey. “They [the pilots] were hand-controlled from radar. So our folks were directing them the whole time, telling them when to descend or turn right or left, all the way down to the minimum. They did not break out of the clouds until that minimum of 200 feet.”
    Teamwork across the board between the air wing, the installation and even other branches of service culminated in a positive experience for those involved as McLaughlin explains.
    “The people here have been great,” McLaughlin said. “Between the base and the logisticians and the people in town, we really have been treated very well considering how quickly this got turned on. There wasn’t a single question that I asked if we could get that the answer was ‘no’ from start to finish so we’re really grateful to the folks at JRB Fort Worth for the things they’ve done.”
    The squadrons that participated in this historic event included Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31, the “Tomcatters”; VFA 32, the “Swordsmen”; VFA 83, the “Rampagers”; VFA 87, the “Golden Warriors”; VFA 103, the “Jolly Rogers”; VFA 105, the “Gunslingers”; VFA 131, the “Wildcats”; and VFA 143, the “Pukin’ Dogs.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 12.06.2018
    Date Posted: 12.07.2018 17:11
    Story ID: 302669
    Location: FORT WORTH, TX, US 

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