As a demonstration of respect and appreciation to front line responders, essential workers and volunteers during the coronavirus pandemic, a crew in a B-52H Stratofortress took flight from the Minot Air Force Base to travel across North Dakota hospitals for a series of flyovers on Monday.
The gesture is known as an Air Force Salute.
At 1:35 p.m., the long-range strategic bomber flew over Sanford Health and CHI St. Alexius Health in downtown Bismarck during its path east to Fargo.
"I think it was a tremendous tribute," said Patrick Schultz, vice president of nursing and clinical services at Sanford Health Bismarck. Schultz said there are parallels between the military and health care services. "I thought it was a fantastic way to honor our health care workers. It was a strong show of solidarity."
Joining the crew on the special flight was Lt. Col. John Burrell, commander of the 23rd Bomb Squadron of the 5th Bomb Wing.
"We are all in this together," Burrell said in a statement. "This salute is not about me or you, it is about 'us' because we stand with you. We have a deep respect for our doctors, nurses, medical personnel and all other essential employees who are on the front line defending us. This salute is our way of sending a heartfelt 'thank you' to all of those who are standing watch to keep us safe."
The flyovers were part of a pre-planned training mission and was conducted at no additional cost to taxpayers.
"It was truly amazing," said Jordan Weisenberger, director of Quality Infection Prevention and Education for CHI St. Alexius Health Bismarck. Weisenberger said health care workers lined the sidewalks wearing masks and social distancing outside the hospital. As the bomber passed over "you just got the chills and everyone started cheering. (The flyover) will make us stronger in the end."
The bomber, first introduced in 1955, has eight turbo propped engines on a 185-foot wingspan. It has a maximum take-off weight of 488,000 pounds with cruising speed of 525 mph and a combat radius of 4,480 miles.
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