- The US Navy has decided to honour former President George H.W. Bush with a 21-aircraft memorial flyover on Thursday.
- The missing man formation will be the largest ever, as these formations typically involve no more than four aircraft.
- The former president, a distinguished World War II naval aviator who passed away Friday at the age of 94, will be laid to rest on Thursday at George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station in Texas.
The US Navy plans to honour former President George H.W. Bush, a decorated naval aviator, with a massive memorial flyover – one reportedly unprecedented in size.
As the late president is laid to rest at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas on Thursday, 21 Navy F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets will participate in a missing man formation celebrating Bush’s service as a naval aviator and his legacy, the Navy told USNI News.
These formations typically involve only four fighters.
Capt. Kevin “Proton” McLaughlin, the commander of Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, will fly the lead aircraft, the Navy announced on Facebook. His aircraft has the former president and former first lady’s names inscribed on it. “To be even a small part of this ceremony means a lot to me,” McLaughlin told WTKR-TV.
“A missing man flyover is symbolic of the departure one of the members of our squadron, members of our air wing, and in this case, our Navy,” he explained. “It’s a symbolic final farewell to a great man who left a tremendous legacy of selfless service to his nation and his family behind.”
“Being selected to participate in this memorial is one of the highest honours a Naval Aviator can receive,” Rear Adm. Roy Kelley, commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic, told the Virginian Pilot. “In addition to being our president, he was also one of our brothers, flying combat missions off aircraft carriers during World War II. His service to our Navy and nation merits a tribute of this magnitude.”
In World War II, Bush flew a Grumman TBM-1C Avenger torpedo bomber with Torpedo Squadron Fifty-One (VT-51) from the aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto (CVL-30), according to The Aviationist. One of the youngest combat aviators in US history, he flew 58 combat missions. For his service during the war, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
He was only 18 years old when he earned his commission as a Navy pilot.
The Navy named an aircraft carrier after the late president, the USS George H.W. Bush. On Tuesday, sailors aboard this aircraft held a flashlight vigil for the former president.
At the age of 94, he passed away on Nov. 30, 2018. Navy fighter jets from eight different fighter squadrons are participating in Thursday’s memorial flyover.