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Hill Air Force Base F-35s to be seen in the sky over Independence Day observances

By Mitch Shaw standard-Examiner - | Jul 2, 2021

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Ever since the Air Force decided to stand up its first (and, for now, only) F-35 combat unit at Hill Air Force Base almost a decade ago, proponents and general admirers of the jet have often described its rumbling engine as “the sound of freedom.”

So, it seems appropriate the next-generation fighter aircraft will be featured prominently at several Independence Day celebrations across the Wasatch Front this weekend.

According to a press release from Hill’s 419th Fighter Wing Public Affairs office, four F-35s will fly in formation Saturday over 12 cities: Clearfield, Henefer, Millcreek, Morgan, Murray, North Salt Lake, Park City, Riverton, Salt Lake City, Vernal, West Jordan and West Point.

Other cities along the Wasatch Front will likely see the jets as they move across the state. Timetables for the flyovers are fluid, but they will begin at approximately 9 a.m. and end around 11 a.m., so those hoping to see the jets should keep their eyes to the skies during that time.

“It’s a real honor to fly this aircraft over Utah,” said Maj. Michael Oldenborg, a pilot with Hill’s 466th Fighter Squadron. “We look forward to flying over the … valley in support of the celebration of America, and we’re proud to represent the Air Force Reserve.”

Oldenborg will be joined in the air by 466th FS reserve pilots Maj. Kyle Crosby, Maj. Casey Smergut and Maj. Justin Cleveland.

An additional Hill F-35 flyover will happen Saturday night, with two jets flying over the Stadium of Fire festivities in Provo. The evening flyover will feature Capt. Kenneth Skelton and Capt. Brendan Moran from Hill’s 34th FS.

F-35 maintainers from Hill’s 388th and 419th maintenance groups will also play a role in the flyovers, working the holiday to ensure the jets are safe and ready to fly.

“We never have trouble getting airmen to come in on their holiday weekend to work these flyovers,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Hartman, 419th Maintenance Group superintendent. “They understand the patriotism of it all, so there’s a lot of enthusiasm for this event.”

The Air Force reserve unit at Hill has been doing Fourth of July flyovers in Utah since 1983. F-35s were first featured in 2017, with F-16 Fighting Falcons being showcased before that.

Hill was selected as the Air Force’s preferred home for the F-35 in December 2013 after a four-year environmental review process. The first two operational F-35As arrived at Hill in September 2015. The base received approximately one to two jets every month until reaching its full fleet of 78 late last year. The wing’s three squadrons — the 4th, 34th and 421st — each have 24 F-35As, with another six backup aircraft stored at the base.

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