Lightning Formation Airshows pilots draw a heart in the sky above Mee Memorial Hospital on May 9. (Photo by Dr. Noah Hawthorne)

CENTRAL COAST — Six pilots from Lightning Formation Airshows (LFA) flew over six sites in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties last Saturday to pay tribute to health care professionals on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mee Memorial Hospital in King City was among those stops. Also on the roster was Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, Natividad Medical Center and Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital in Salinas, Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in Monterey and Watsonville Community Hospital. pilots from Lightning Formation Airshows

Each site had a heart drawn over it or near it as the six planes collaboratively performed skywriting.

“You could see the spirit in our staff,” said Lisa Moylan, chief nursing officer at Mee Memorial, of the reaction. “It’s been a tough time for all health care and they’re all feeling it. Just today, the anticipation of running out at 3 o’clock, taking their mask off for a few minutes, getting some deep breaths and watching that beautiful act of love, we’re very appreciative.”

Tim Redden, one of the six pilots with LFA, said, “We really wanted to offer something uplifting to help connect with the community.” Also piloting were Bob Mills, Scott Randolph, Sean Farrell, Mercedes Eulitt and Scott Prewitt.

The idea for the May 9 flight was inspired by the Navy Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds and their flyovers above metropolitan cities, as well as a growing movement by local airshow pilots, first in Atlanta, to draw hearts in the sky.

“The airshow community is small, and the positive impact was quickly shared out,” Redden said. “The ‘heart-in-the-sky’ idea in support of the battle against Covid-19 has now been replicated by many airshow pilots across the country.”

The area for the flight was chosen as a result of four of the LFA pilots being from Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.

“We had the idea that we might like to do hearts here for the past few weeks,” Redden said. “Then Watsonville Airport Director Rayvon Williams reached out with the idea to emulate the Blue Angels/Thunderbirds overflights. We decided to do both — fly formations over various cities in Santa Cruz County, and make commemorative hearts over area hospitals.”

The spirit of spreading goodwill was something Redden said is strong for airshow pilots.

“We love to meet the crowd after performances and see how we have inspired or moved them,” he said about the airshow performances. “We hope you see the hearts in the sky and are similarly moved, for all the folks in your town who are going above and beyond the call of duty, for those who are ill now, for those who sadly have been unable to beat Covid-19 and for their families.”

LFA has plans for another flight over Reno, Nev., in conjunction with the Reno Air Race Association.

“Similar flights have occurred in the past few weeks over Sacramento and Bakersfield,” Redden said. “Everyone is being very respectful and trying to allow the pilots with local connections and relationships to share with their cities and counties.”

The weekend flight over the central coast was a non-commercial activity funded by the participating pilots, with support from the Watsonville Airport and Watsonville City Council, according to Redden.

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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