A flypast is a ceremonial or honorific flight by a group of aircraft or a single aircraft. The term flypast is used in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. In the United States, the terms flyover and flyby are used.
Flypasts are often tied in with Royal or state events, anniversaries, celebrations - and occasionally funerary or memorial occasions. Sometimes flypasts occur in special situations, to honour someone or to celebrate certain types of aircraft. They have affinities with parades, of which they form the aerial component. Often they occur in purely display contexts at airshows, but it is the flypasts linked with civic, ceremonial and national pride, that imprint themselves on a nation's memory. Some flypasts have been described in broadcast and print media as "historic".
Flypasts are regularly featured in public and ceremonial life in the United Kingdom, where they function as a particular kind of aerial salute. They serve to show respect, display aircraft, showcase flying skills and as a form of entertainment to delight the public, for example, during their annual appearance after Trooping the Colour. Flypasts reflect milestones of national life; varying in scope from personal, to community and local, to military, to national. They may honour individuals in private or public life or commemorate happenings at a particular location. They are also used to honour aircraft. On occasions both small and large they may occur over land or sea, sometimes connected with memorial or thanksgiving services.
Flypast locations are usually of national importance. In the UK, these include Buckingham Palace, where the Royal Family on the balcony will join the thousands of spectators in streets and parks below. Other London settings have included the River Thames. The 50th and 60th anniversaries of World War II were celebrated by flypasts over Normandy in France. Festivities of Trafalgar 200 were centred over Portsmouth and at sea.
Settings have included the National Stadium, The Float@Marina Bay and the Padang in Singapore; Rajpath in New Delhi, India; Pakistan's Parliament House in Islamabad; Australia's Parliament House and Anzac Parade to the Australian War Memorial, in Canberra; Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; and Rizal Park in Manila, Philippines.
Flypasts are a regular occurrence in the United Kingdom at national events or commemorations. In 1954 the Queen conducted a Coronation Review of the Royal Air Force at RAF Odiham which included a flypast by about 640 aircraft - among them 440 jet aircraft.
On many occasions, the flypasts are performed by the Red Arrows aerobatic team of the Royal Air Force, but on more important events like Royal occasions, for example the Queen's 80th birthday during 2006, was a flypast following the Trooping the Colour. Headed by the Lancaster with 2 Hurricanes and 2 Spitfires (Battle of Britain Memorial Flight), the 49 aircraft in 9 formations included Typhoons, Jaguars, Tristar, VC10, C-17A Globemaster III and E-3 Sentry. The highlight was a "Diamond 9" formation of Tornado GR4s and the appearance of a Canberra escorted by the Red Arrows.
Historic aircraft of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, including Supermarine Spitfires and the Avro Lancaster perform flypasts throughout the year particularly on military anniversaries and occasions and as a mark of respect at funerals and memorial services.
National or Republic Day celebrations
In Singapore the National Day Parade on 9 August 2005 celebrated 40 years of independence with an elaborate flypast  including two Chinook helicopters flying the national flag past the Esplanade Theatre in Padang.
In Finland, during Independence Day parade on 6 December the Finnish Air Force has traditionally performed a flyover of four fighters at the moment when the honour company of the Air force passes the podium where a representative of the war veterans, a representative of the city and the commander of the military province in question receive the parade troops marching past, the Helicopter battalion of Utti Jaeger Regiment has also performed flyovers timed to happen at the same time when the honour company of the Finnish Army provided by the Utti Jaeger Regiment passes the podium.
Air Force anniversaries
On 1 April 2008, a flypast by the Red Arrows over Central London marked the 90th Anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force. The milestone was also celebrated that June following Trooping the Colour 2008 with a flypast of 55 aircraft, and in July with a Royal Review and flypast of 90 aircraft at the Royal International Air Tattoo.
Ten years later, the RAF's centenary was celebrated over The Mall, London and Buckingham Palace on 10 July 2018 with a large-scale flypast featuring the Red Arrows, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and aircraft from several RAF squadrons. This flypast featured 103 aircraft of 24 different types, spread out over twenty different formations. The entire flypast took nine minutes to pass over London. This was also the RAF's longest ever flypast: a line of aircraft stretching over 50 miles long and featuring aircraft based from 17 different airfields all over the United Kingdom.
World War II
(1945) Formation of American planes over USS Missouri and Tokyo Bay celebrating the signing of the surrender
Achievements in World War II were celebrated at the time and continue to be commemorated in flypasts. The Royal Air Force used the upper dams of Ladybower Reservoir to practise for the Dambusters raids and this is occasionally commemorated in flypasts by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
The largest flypast in history occurred on the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender which formally ended the war between Japan and the allied powers in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945. 400 B-29 bombers and 3000 carrier aircraft participated.
On 15 September 1945, after the war ended, about 300 aircraft flew over London in the first Battle of Britain anniversary flypast. "The formation was led by 247 Squadron in their new Vampire fighters, the first time the public had seen the aircraft." This flypast was apparently led by Douglas Bader (RAF hero commemorated and portrayed by Kenneth More in the film Reach For the Sky.)
An attender recalls a victory parade in London on 8 June 1946 featuring two flypasts, one during the day and one at night. Scores of aircraft, of many kinds, took part.
The 50th and 60th anniversaries of World War II were commemorated with large flypasts. On 15 September 1990, 168 aircraft in seven formations celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Further flypasts occurred on 6 June 1994, celebrating the 50th anniversary of D-Day.
Over the weekend of 19–20 August 1995, the 50th anniversary of VJ Day was marked in London, including "a two-minute silence which...was ended by an Avro Lancaster bomber overflying The Mall and dropping about a million poppies over the site."  In the evening, there was a further flypast on the Thames.
6 June 2004 marked the 60th Anniversary of D-day, with the Normandy landings commemorated by veterans (many now aged 80+ years) and political leaders at locations throughout Normandy. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight scattered millions of poppies over the veterans as they crossed the English Channel by ferry. Later, it flew over the veterans at Arromanches, concluding a memorial service with a 47-aircraft flypast of modern military jets led by the RAF Red Arrows. At Pegasus Bridge, the Army Air Corps conducted a flypast of Lynx helicopters.
On 5 June 2019, a flypast of 24 British Armed Forces aircraft was held over Gosport to mark the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. The flypast was part of a larger series of commemorative events to mark the anniversary, which were by Donald Trump and other world leaders.
The 60th anniversary in 2003 of the Dambusters raid was marked by a flypast of the last operational Lancaster over the cliffs at Reculver, site of secret tests of inventor Barnes Wallis's bouncing bomb. (This flight was part of a larger series of flypasts over key locations by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.)
On 16 May 2008, Les Munro, the last surviving Squadron Leader, and Richard Todd, star of the celebrated film The Dambusters, attended the 65th Anniversary service and flypast over Ladybower Reservoir. At 100 feet, as compared to 60 feet of the Dambusters' practice runs, a single Lancaster aircraft passed three times over Derwent Water. A Spitfire, two Tornadoes, and a Dakota transport plane also participated.
The Royal Canadian Air Force at the Canada Aviation Museum in Ottawa honoured Canada's participation and commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain on 17 September 2006. Modern aircraft performed a flypast along with four World War II planes provided by Vintage Wings of Canada who made a "once-in-a-lifetime formation".
To mark the 70th Anniversary of VE Day, a flypast of 56 historical aircraft was performed over the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on May 8, 2015. This flypast was a rare sight for residents, as it was the first time in several years that the restricted airspace over Washington was opened for the occasion.
On September 24, 2020, a similar flypast is set to take place over the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to mark the 75th Anniversary of the end of the war. This flypast is expected to include nearly 100 vintage aircraft spread across 24 formations. Aircraft expected to take part include the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, Bell P-39 Airacobra, Vought F4U Corsair, North American B-25 Mitchell, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Douglas C-47 Skytrain, Avro Lancaster, Supermarine Spitfire, and Hawker Hurricane. In London, a flypast consisting of the Red Arrows and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was to be held on 8 May, but was subsequently cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 7 May 2007, hundreds of workers at Kennedy Space Center watched as US Air Force Thunderbirds performed a series of passes over the main industrial area, where the Space Shuttle is maintained and prepared for launches. The purpose of this demonstration was to photograph the planes at KSC for promotional purposes. Almost six months later, in November 2007, the Kennedy Space Center hosted the inaugural World Space Expo. The opening featured an aerial salute to NASA with the Thunderbirds as the main attraction.
Flypasts also demonstrate national pride at landmark entertainment and sporting events.
- Canada: The Snowbirds perform a flypast after the national anthem O Canada at each annual Grey Cup event, which is the largest sporting event in Canada.
- Italy: Among the celebrations in of the Football World Cup victory in 2006 was a flypast by the Frecce Tricolori at Pratica di Mare, streaming the red, green, and white of the Italian flag.
- United States: Flyovers are common at professional sports and racing events as part of the performance of The Star-Spangled Banner. The flyover had been a strong NASCAR tradition, as every major race features one, usually performed by an air force or air national guard wing based in the area, and in some cases naval and marine air units. Army helicopters have also occasionally performed them. It is also a staple of the national anthem at the NFL Super Bowl, MLB World Series games and the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. A flyover occurs at the beginning of the Men's Final of the US Open Tennis Championships. This is usually performed by the Blue Angels, the official U.S. Navy aerobatics demonstration squadron. A flyby takes places prior to the start of the Indianapolis 500 mile race, the largest single-day sporting event in the world. In most racing events in NASCAR, flyovers are held, especially at the Daytona 500. Held annually on Memorial Day weekend, U.S. military aircraft perform a flyby while "Taps" is played in remembrance of Memorial Day. In some years, multiple aircraft participate, executing the missing man formation.
New Zealand showed its pride at being the location for The Lord of the Rings, at the premiere in Wellington of the third film in the trilogy, The Return of the King. An Air New Zealand Boeing 747-400 flew in Lord of the Rings livery in a historic flight over Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Gisborne and Napier, "enabling more than two million people, one in two New Zealanders, to share in the excitement of The Lord of the Rings". This was the first time that a 747-400 had undertaken such a flypast in New Zealand.
The funeral of Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti was sealed by a flypast from Frecce Tricolori over Modena Cathedral, his native town, on 8 September 2007. Tens of thousands of people who had filed past his coffin as it lay in state, witnessed the show of respect and mourning.
Accidents and incidents
Some Canberra residents panicked during a flypast in 2003 over Parliament House by two F-111 jets, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Australian High Court. It manifested itself as "two thunderously loud balls of flame screaming overhead at a height of about 300 metres and heading toward the city's landmarks." Press releases had been issued, but the police had not been informed.
In Goa, India, during a ceremonial flypast to mark the silver jubilee of the Naval Air Squadron 315 in 2002, the wingtips of two Ilyushin aircraft brushed in mid-air, with the subsequent loss of a dozen lives[clarification needed]. The incident raised questions as to the necessity of flypasts which, "although spectacular and entertaining, can be risky".
- History of Trooping the Colour Archived 3 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine accessed 2 October 2006
- Royal Air Force history, 1953 Archived 2 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 30 September 2006
- For the full configuration, see National Day Parade, 2005
- MSN News, "IAF marks 75th year with impressive flypast" October 8, 2006 Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 15 October 2006
- Nemesis: The Battle for Japan - Max Hastings
- Royal Air Force history timeline. Retrieved 30 September 2006
- "Lancaster bomber overflying The Mall". Archived from the original on 17 October 2006. Retrieved 4 October 2006.
- World War Two commemorations description from the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 30 September 2006
- commemorations of 60th anniversary of D-day on RAF website
- The Scotsman, Monday 7 June 2004. Retrieved 3 October 2006
- . Retrieved 27 April 2019
- Times Online, July 11, 2005. Retrieved 3 October 2006
- See BBC News, 17 May 2003. Retrieved 3 October 2006, for full description
- BBC News, 16 May 2008 "Dambusters remembered 65 years on". Retrieved 16 May 2008
- ABC News, Central Victoria, 19 April 2003. Retrieved 8 October 2006
- Canadian National Defence website report, 14 September 2006 Archived 29 November 2006 at the Wayback Machine accessed 15 October 2006
- Space Task Force article, 8 May 2007. Accessed 2 April 2008
- Scoop! Independent News, Tuesday, 2 December 2003 Accessed 14 October 2006
- flypast (image no. 11 in this BBC photographic gallery)
- Funerali Pavarotti: l'ultimo saluto dalle Frecce Tricolori
- Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 2003. Retrieved 8 October 2006
- The Hindu, Saturday 5 October 2002 Accessed 8 October 2006
|Look up flypast, flyby, or flyover in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Flypasts.|
- Photographs of King George Review of 6 July 1935
- Official programme of Victory Parade in London 8 June 1946, including flypast
- Report on Queen's presentation in July 2003 of Royal Navy colour
- Pictures of the flypast and other events at the 125th anniversary of the sinking of the Eliza Adams lifeboat
- Helicopter and Red Arrow displays at Trafalgar 200, 28 June 2005
- The Lord Mayor's Show, which begins with a flypast
- Photographs of flypast for Trooping the Colour 2004
- BBC photograph (Image no. 10) of Italy World Cup 2006 celebratory flypast