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And when May 16—the designated day for “Operation Thanks from Above”—dawned with a persistent fog that was slow to burn off, they scrambled to revise those plans so no scheduled community was left behind.
The result was so successful that the museum will do it all over again—on June 6, the seventy-sixth anniversary of D-Day.
On April 28, Austin Wadsworth, the museum’s president, announced that a series of western New York flyovers, led by its Douglas C– 47A Skytrain named Whiskey 7, would be planned for May 16.
“These are interesting times we are living in. Each worker, family, and organization has had to make drastic, unusual, and spontaneous changes to the way that we all conduct life and business,” Wadsworth said. “On the front line, we are fortunate to have first responders and essential workers who take risk to ensure that safety, care, and supplies are available to everyone, every day.”
And the museum’s C–47A was ideally suited for the mission. Known as Whiskey 7 for the W7 squadron designation painted on its nose, the World War II veteran aircraft led the second wave of the D-Day invasion June 6, 1944, when it dropped 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers over Sainte-Mère-Église, Normandy, said Todd Cameron, director of flight operations for the museum. “People associate it with values like hope, sacrifice, and patriotism. People found it very emotional when it flew over. That’s what we wanted,” he said.
And the C–47 flew over a lot of people. “We covered 95 sites over six-and-a-half hours of flying and had 440,000 Facebook followers. The National Warplane Museum’s website ramped up from 10,000 visits a day to 20,000 to 38,000,” Cameron said. “And we believe that to our knowledge, this has been the longest COVID flyover in the country to date.” The total distance was 580 nautical miles, he added. “For that day W7 was the most tracked aircraft in the world,” according to online flight tracking site Flightradar24.
“For the entire week leading up to it, the phone calls were unbelievable—from nurses crying on the phone that couldn’t believe we were coming to their hospitals, to doctors who hadn’t been able to share good news in two months,” he recalled. “We had hospitals cover their roofs and helipads with doctors and nurses. Cars lined the roads, and some university parking lots were full.”
What inspired the idea?
“Everyone at the museum is
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