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Slovenian and American pilots make an overflight to acknowledge epidemic efforts

For many people in Slovenia, life almost stopped during the declared epidemic. Despite the fact that we all contributed to the good epidemiological picture, the heaviest burden was mainly carried by the health workers – those in healthcare institutions (notably Ljubljana and Maribor university medical centres, the Golnik clinic and the Celje hospital), at 16 testing entry points for the potentially infected, in elder care homes, members of the 13 medical teams designed to help the personnel in elder care homes, epidemiologists…

Their efforts were supported in the background by even more members of the Civil Protection Service, Slovenian Armed Forces, all those who joined the protection and rescue system and all who have been supporting the functioning of the basic systems in the country.

Today between 13.10 and 14.25, members of the Slovenian Armed Forces 15th Wing and the US 31st Fighter Wing made a joint overflight of Slovenia to mark the end of the COVID-19 epidemic. At the same time, Police patrols turned on blue lights in the immediate vicinity of hospitals. In this way, the Slovenian Armed Forces and the Police symbolically recognised the effort of health workers, Civil Protection Service members, all those who joined the protection and rescue system and all who have been supporting the functioning of the basic systems in the country.

Commander of the 15th Wing, Lieutenant Colonel Janez Gaube, said that the F-16 aircraft flew from Aviano and entered the airspace of the Republic of Slovenia at Jesenice, adding: “They joined our Pilatus there. The Pilates took the lead and began flying along the announced route. The flight lasted 1hour and 15 minutes at 4000ft. The distance between the echelons was one mile.” The flight of the Pilatus PC-9M aircraft of the Slovenian Armed Forces was conducted as part of the regular pilot training.

This was a joint token of appreciation of members of the Slovenian Armed Forces 15th Wing and members of the US 31st Fighter Regiment, which operates from a military base in Aviano, Italy, to all those who have in one way or another taken part in the prevention of the spreading of COVID-19. With six F-16 and three PC-9M aircraft, the pilots flew over Jesenice, Golnik, Kranj, Ljubljana, Celje, Maribor, Ptuj, Šmarje pri Jelšah, Brežice, Novo mesto, Metlika, Postojna and Izola with the message that mutual assistance and cooperation are the only ways of successfully tackling great risks. Prior to this event, US pilots had flown over some Italian cities in a similar way as a token of gratitude. Commander of the 31st Fighter Wing operational group, Colonel Leslie Hauck, said that today’s joint flight of Slovenian and US aircraft over Slovenia serves as a reminder that we are together in the fight against COVID-19 - as allies, partners and friends.

The COVID-19 epidemic, which was in Slovenia declared on 12 March, is formally ending today, said the Minister of Defence Matej Tonin, adding: "Today, we have officially revoked the epidemic. This is one of the reasons why Slovenian and U.S. pilots flew over Slovenia, its hospitals and other healthcare centres and elder care homes. They expressed solidarity and gratitude to all health workers, as well as to all others who contributed significantly to the fact that, as a country, we have won the first battle with the corona virus. At the same time, this overflight is also an important symbolic act by two Allies who continue to work together in joint peace and security efforts both in the region and globally. Together we are stronger."

With a joint overflight, we symbolically marked the end of the epidemic in the Republic of Slovenia and at the same time thanked the citizens and all who have contributed to this effort.

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