Coronavirus took away Philadelphia’s fireworks, but the city will celebrate July 4 with the thunderous sound of military jets flying over that will be visible in Center City and in areas along the Delaware River.
The Thunderbirds and a group of bombers and fighter jets from the Air Force and Marine Corps and will pass over Philadelphia late Saturday afternoon as part of a nod to cities that played an important role securing the county’s independence during the American Revolution.
The flyover will begin in Boston around 4 p.m., make its way over New York City at about 5 p.m. and passes over Center City Philadelphia around 5:15 p.m.. According to the Pentagon, residents along the flight path can expect a few seconds of jet noise as the aircraft pass overhead, flying in close formation.
The city canceled its annual July 4th fireworks display and is holding its week-long Wawa Welcome America bash virtually to prevent large crowds from gathering. City spokesperson Mike Dunn said Saturday’s flyover will be brief, but warned people to “wear a mask and practice social distancing” if they head outside to watch the aircraft pass over.
Unlike the joint Thunderbirds-Blue Angels flyover back in April to honor health care workers combating the coronavirus, the pedestrian walkway on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge will remain open.
Here’s everything you need to know to watch the joint flyover:
The joint mission begins at about 4 p.m. in Boston, where the aircraft will fly over the U.S.S. Constitution and Fenway Park. The planes will then head south to New York City over the Hudson River about 5 p.m.
The planes will arrive in Philadelphia from the northeast about 5:15 p.m., flying over Independence Hall and Center City at 1,000 feet above the ground. After passing over Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, the planes will proceed southwest out of the city and fly over Fort McHenry in Baltimore at about 5:30 p.m.
From there the planes will head over Washington D.C. to join with other aircraft in a flyover of the nation’s capital.
Aircraft from the Air Force and Marine Corps will fly over in five waves, according to the Pentagon.
The flyover will feature six of the Thunderbirds’ F-16C/D Fighting Falcons. The Air Force will also be providing B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers and F-15 and F-22 fighters.
Marine Corps F-35 fighters will also take part in the flyover.
According to the Washington Post, each flight hour of the Thunderbirds costs about $60,000, and it’s unclear how much the other jets cost to fly. The Department of Defense said in a statement the flying hours are a sunk cost because “these aircraft and crews would be using these hours for proficiency and training at other locations if they were not conducting these flyovers.”
According to the National Weather Service, temperatures could reach as high as 89 degrees in the Philadelphia area between 5:15 p.m. and 5:20 p.m., the timing of the flyover that will begin over the city. There is a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2 p.m.
The flyover is dependent on weather conditions. According to a Pentagon spokesperson, the minimum ceiling — the height of the base of the clouds relative to the ground — is 3,000 feet. A visibility of 5 miles will also be required for the flyover to occur, and visibilities are forecast to range from 6 to 9 miles.
Thanks to the short duration of the flyover and the low volume of air traffic caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the flyover’s impact to travelers in and out of Philadelphia International Airport will be “minimal,” according to a spokesperson. According to their airport, there are just seven scheduled flights during the hour surrounding the flyover.