2022 MLB Opening Day: military flyovers explained


Witnessing a military flyover at a major sporting event will leave you bursting with pride.

Flyovers first started in 1918 and have since been an iconic addition to any sporting event or honorable moment. 

There are a handful of different demonstrations that can be witnessed and enjoyed:  Army Golden Knights, Navy Blue Angels, Navy Leap Frogs, Air Force Thunderbirds and Air Force Wings Of Blue. These all occur at the conclusion of the national anthem right before a game starts.

With the arrival of MLB Opening Day, here is everything you need to know about military flyovers and their history:

When was the first military flyover at a sporting event?

The first military flyover occurred during the first World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs on September 5, 1918. The flyover included over 60 aircraft.

What do military flyovers symbolize?

There’s no doubt that when the public sees any military demonstration at a sporting event, a united, positive environment is created. It’s also an opportunity for airmen to display what they do on a regular basis to a community that appreciates celebrating America and believes in patriotism. 

“It’s pride – it's knowing that our freedom is there for a reason and it's on the backs of the men and women who and their families who serve our country,” Air Force Public Affairs Officer Jennifer Bentley said.


A military flyover can also trigger emotions if there’s a connection to someone who served or the connection to military technology, especially in conjunction with patriotic music in the background and flags on the field.

“So the speed and the power of aircraft with these other parts of patriotism… It becomes a moment to kind of focus on these things that do pull us together as Americans,” D.C. National Guard Major Miranda Summers Lowe said.

How are military flyovers organized with the team?

To request an aircraft flyover, static display or parachute demonstration, a team must complete and sign a DD Form 2535 at least 90 days in advance of the event. The Air Force will then decide if the request could be fulfilled.

When a team requests a military flyover during a sporting event, the decision is based on availability and the relationship the team has built within their local community.

“There has to be ample military appreciation – so we don't just do flyovers just to do flyovers, “ Bentley said. “There has to be an opportunity for us to have our airmen on the field to talk about our mission and to showcase the unit that's doing the flyover.”

The MLB’s Washington Nationals is an example of a team that goes that extra mile to organize clinics that involve the military and serve the local community. 

The D.C. team holds clinics at the military bases and invites the airmen out to the stadium to partake in different activities with the players, creating special bonds.

Flyovers create incredible exposure and training for airmen. Typically, pilots would range over “the middle of nowhere” but at events, they get to land and be recognized on the field, which Bentley says is a great opportunity.


What other events feature military flyovers?

The majority of military flyovers happen during sporting events across the county, such as MLB Opening Day, the Super Bowl, NHL games, NASCAR races and many more, but those aren’t the only times you can spot the honorable moment.

There are other events that have jets, transports and/or helicopters over an area to honor people or events, including to celebrate peace. For instance, the largest flyover happened in September 1945 during the World War II surrender of Japan, according to the Defense website.

Flyovers are also organized to boost spirits during difficult times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

In spring 2020 during COVID-19 lockdowns, airmen were given the green light to do a flyover over the community to “boost everyone’s spirits.”

“We picked 11 different hospitals in the Buffalo-Niagara area and advertised ahead of time,” U.S. Air Force Pilot Lt. Col Benjamin D. Canetti said. “People came out of their houses and hospitals and watched it … and the reaction from the public went on for days in the media about how much they appreciated that their … spirits were boosted.”