A Lawrence flyover planned for Tuesday aims to thank health care workers and other first responders

photo by: Ashley Golledge/Journal-World File Photo

The emergency entrance to Lawrence Memorial Hospital is shown in this file photo from Jan. 26, 2018.

Look up to the Lawrence skies tomorrow to see a little bit of thanks for the frontline workers battling COVID-19.

More specifically, brush that Sasquatch hairdo out of your eyes and you’ll see an old-fashioned flyover. A pair of aviation teams from Kansas City plan to take to the Lawrence skies near 1:30 p.m. to conduct a flyover to thank health care workers and others who are serving patients. The Lawrence route will include a flight path above the Lawrence hospital and many of the fire stations in town.

Expect 11 to 12 aircraft — all prop planes with no military jets or anything like that — flying in an arrow formation. Some will even be emitting colorful smoke. The flyover is mainly designed to bring a smile to a few faces and remind frontline workers that people are thinking of them. But James Elliott, one of the organizers of the event, said he’s found flyovers also are good at doing something else: bringing people together.

“Think about a flyover before a football game,” said Elliott. “It bands everyone together. Everybody loves seeing it, no matter what side they are on. If we can extend that attitude to some of the conditions today, that would be great. For a split second, you get to forget what else is going on.”

The aviation clubs BeechNutz, which Elliott is a member of, and KC Flight will be conducting the flyover. The flyover is basically an encore of one they did in Kansas City earlier this month. One of the members of the club had been struck by the COVID-19 virus and was on a ventilator. Group members decided to fly over his hospital, and then it grew from there to include multiple hospitals in the city.

“It seemed to create a lot of joy throughout the city,” Elliott said. “We think more of that is needed these days.”

So the group decided to do a Lawrence flyover, and, later on Tuesday, will do one in Topeka.

The day will end in Kansas City about 3 p.m. for a special flyover ceremony. While their fellow club member has recovered, the Kansas City, Mo., fire department announced last week that one of its EMTs had died from the virus. The flight clubs will do a flyover — featuring the “missing man” formation, which is a traditional aviation salute to lost soldiers — as part of a virtual memorial service.

Elliott said he expected the assembled aircraft — a mix of small passenger planes and even smaller aircraft designed more for aerobatics — to take off from the Lawrence Municipal Airport about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. He said the airplanes would first fly over LMH and then fly over several fire station locations, essentially making a loop around the city before flying north out of the city. Elliott said people could follow him on twitter — @RoyalJay3 — to get live updates on the planes’ locations.

As for whether other area towns should expect a flyover, that remains to be seen. But Elliott said club members were getting a lot of satisfaction from the events.

“It has been incredibly uplifting for us,” Elliott said. “Aviators like to help out when needed, but we’re not doctors or police officers or firefighters. This is just our small way of giving back to the community.”


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