Military helicopters, tankers and jets will do COVID-19 flyovers from Arctic to Southeast Alaska this week

F-22 Raptor fighter jets like this one are scheduled to perform flyovers across Alaska later this week to celebrate COVID-19 responders and health-care workers. (U.S. Air Force)

An array of military aircraft, from helicopters to F-22 fighter jets, aim to celebrate COVID-19 responders and essential workers this week by conducting flyovers in Alaska communities from Kotzebue, north of the Arctic Circle, to Ketchikan at the state’s southeastern corner.

The flyovers, conducted by the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard, are set to start Tuesday afternoon. That’s when an HC-130 rescue plane and KC-135 Stratotanker will pass by the rural hub towns of Bethel, Nome and Kotzebue, according to a prepared statement sent Monday afternoon by the Air Force and National Guard.

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On Wednesday, an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and HC-130 rescue plane will fly over Eagle River, Palmer and Wasilla.

On Friday, two C-17 Globemaster transport planes will conduct flyovers in Wasilla, Palmer, Valdez, Cordova, Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka. And on the same day, four F-22 Raptor jets will fly over Eagle River, Whittier, Seward, Homer, Soldotna, Kenai, Sterling, Girdwood and Anchorage.

“Health-care professionals are the indispensable line of defense against COVID-19, and this is one way we can show our gratitude for what they are doing in hospitals and health-care facilities across Alaska and the nation,” Brig. Gen. Scott Howard, the Alaska Air National Guard commander, said in a prepared statement.

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The military said the flyovers should be visible from people’s homes and that residents should maintain social-distancing guidelines while watching.

The military has organized similar flyovers in cities in the Lower 48 states, saying that the exercises serve as important training for crews, though some have criticized the expense of the flights amid the COVID-19 pandemic.