The sensitive airspace over Washington is about to be penetrated by a huge flight of World War II-era airplanes brought together to honor veterans and mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe in 1945.
The Arsenal of Democracy Flyover is scheduled to begin at 12:10 p.m. May 8, when more than 50 vintage bombers, fighters and trainers will fly south along the Potomac River and over the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol building.
The route also will take the aircraft over the National World War II Memorial, where special ceremonies will take place.
The flight, which is dependent on the weather, is scheduled to include famous aircraft such as the B-17, B-24 and B-29 bombers. Also flying will be P-51, P-40, P-39 and P-38 fighters, among others.
“This may be one of the last opportunities to honor these vets,” said Peter Bunce, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, a trade association, and one of the chief organizers of the flyover.
He said the event also will serve to remember the industrial might that the United States put into the global struggle of World War II.
The term, “arsenal of democracy,” was used in a 1940 address by President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he urged that the United States provide Great Britain material help in the fight against Nazi Germany. The United States was not yet in the war then.
Bunce said that organizers chose May 8 because it is the day that the United States celebrates the surrender of Germany in 1945 and because of the usually mild spring weather for aged veterans.
The National Park Service and the Friends of the National World War II Memorial are helping to organize the event on the ground, Bunce said.
He said he worried about the incident last Wednesday when a protester in a gyrocopter slipped under the radar into Washington’s restricted airspace and landed on the lawn of the Capitol building. But, he said, federal agencies have been cooperative in giving the green light for the flyover.
“Everybody’s just got the same objective in mind . . . to honor World War II veterans with these aircraft,” he said.
Bunce said that the flyover needs to have clouds above 2,000 feet, and visibility must be five miles. A rain date would be the next day, he said.
The planes will fly at 1,000 feet.
The busy airports in the region have set aside an early afternoon break in landings and takeoffs for the flyover, Bunce said. “The airports gave us this window between noon and one to be able to bring this parade through,” he said.
The aircraft will be taking off from airports in Virginia. Most bombers will fly from Manassas, and most fighters will fly from Culpeper.
The flyover will start at the American Legion Memorial Bridge, which connects Fairfax and Montgomery counties. “They’ll come down the river from the north. At the Lincoln Memorial, they’ll do a slight [left] turn, and basically come down on the south side of Independence Avenue,” he said.
“As they approach the Capitol, they’ll start a slight right turn to back out over the river and continue on down,” he said.
Many of the airplanes are scheduled to be on display May 9 at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, in Chantilly, Va.