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A dozen uniformed police officers joined a handful of medical workers in white coats waving, clapping, and taking selfies after the Cirrus touched down under misty skies at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. A ceremony concluding America’s Operation Thank You The Relay in the Sky unfolded on the Signature Flight Support ramp between two idling business jets as presidential campaign flight crews looked on.
Gloria Hairston of the Washington, D.C., Veterans Affairs Medical Center snapped photos, applauded, and acknowledged those involved. “The thank you is for all health care workers, all first responders, all of those on the front lines of this pandemic—and every day caring for Americans state to state. Thank you to the pilots, thank you to all those involved for this opportunity.” She said the group effort was “just amazing and we hope this continues just as a reminder to health care workers that they are truly appreciated in providing quality care and safety.”
The recognition held special meaning for Goldberg because the Maryland-based FlyOpenAir.com pilot overcame a personal medical challenge in 2020: An aortic aneurysm was discovered during a January airman medical exam. It was repaired, and after regaining his medical signoff, Goldberg resumed duties as a charter captain. He said he appreciated the medical community’s support and wanted to contribute in his own way. “While I know this [flight relay] is to honor the health care heroes dealing with COVID, for me—my life was saved this year…because I was a pilot.”
Goldberg said the short flight from Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport “was great. This really is just another piece of pavement—but not really. It is Reagan National Airport and I’m honored to be here. This is pretty cool.”
Relay flight organizer and Spirit of Liberty Foundation Chairman Richard Rovsek was jubilant after the final flight was in the logbooks. “I’m going to call it ‘Operation Successful.’ It’s a labor of love and I want to thank everyone. We flew to 90 cities and logged almost 11,000 miles” to honor front-line coronavirus workers during brief ceremonies at FBOs.
Beaming health care workers and law enforcement personnel greeted volunteer pilots with open (but distanced) arms when the relay team landed at local airfields. Some flight legs were adjusted for mechanical issues or eliminated because of weather, staffing, or logistics. The penultimate day saw several mid-Atlantic flight legs canceled because of drenching downpours and low visibility in the
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