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July Fourth goes ‘next gen’ with F-35 flyovers

(Photo by Jim Haseltine)

(Photo by Jim Haseltine)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah – July Fourth parades across northern Utah will enter a new era this year as pilots from the 419th Fighter Wing perform flyovers in the Air Force’s newest fighter jet, the F-35 Lightning II.

 

The Air Force Reserve unit at Hill AFB had previously flown over Independence Day celebrations in the iconic F-16 Fighting Falcon for the past three decades.

 

As Hill’s F-16s are being phased out and transferred to other bases, the F-35 will now be the “face” of northern Utah July Fourth celebrations as two of the jets make their debut over the Wasatch Front, from North Ogden to Murray and many cities in between.

 

Flying the jets will be Lt. Col. Bart Wilbanks and Lt. Col. Dave DeAngelis, former F-16 pilots who have transitioned to the F-35. The two reservists have a combined 6,500 flying hours and seven combat deployments. Both have full-time civilian careers and serve part-time as fighter pilots in the Air Force Reserve.

 

Flyovers begin at 9 a.m. and end around 11 a.m., but F-35 maintainers will be at work early that morning to prep the jets for takeoff. More than 20 Airmen volunteered to work the holiday to continue the longstanding tradition. 

 

Hill received the F-35A in September 2015 and will be home to three fighter squadrons with a total of 78 aircraft by the end of 2019. The active duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW fly and maintain the jets in a Total Force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both components.