Tech. Sgt. Jessica Gibson’s commander called her recently and inquired whether she had any plans for February.
Gibson replied that her calendar was free.
Good thing. Gibson, 31, was tapped to be part of the ground crew when, for the first time, three Air Force Global Strike Command bombers will execute a flyover before Super Bowl LV on Sunday night. The game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in Tampa.
“We’ll work on these aircraft and fix parts or inspect parts, in my case, and then we’ll watch it take off,’’ said Gibson, who enlisted in 2010. “A couple of hours later, it will come back. You don’t really get to see it in action. That’s what’s great about the Super Bowl. It’s being there, and everyone gets to witness it and feel the intensity. It really warms you.’’
The flyover will include a B-2 Spirit from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, where Gibson is stationed, along with a B-1B Lancer from Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota and a B-52 Stratofortress from Minot AFB in North Dakota.
Those aircraft are scheduled to arrive over Raymond James Stadium just as Eric Church and Jazmine Sullivan conclude singing the national anthem. It’s an exhilarating way to lead into kickoff as the 25,000 fans in attendance — limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic — tilt their heads skyward.
“What I hope people take away is that the same capability that lets us put a B-2 and a B-52 and a B-1 overtop the Super Bowl is the same sort of process that ensures that we can be on time and on target anywhere in the world,’’ said Maj. Anthony Mascaro, another ground crew member stationed at Whiteman AFB.
Neither Mascaro nor Gibson — they left their base in the Midwest on Tuesday to arrive in Florida for the big game — previously has participated in a flyover of this magnitude.
Flyovers don’t come any bigger than the Super Bowl. Mascaro, who was commissioned from the Air Force Academy in 2010, is a B-2 instructor pilot. He said he has flown in air shows at Joint Base Andrews near Washington, D.C., marveling at the sight of the U.S. Capitol on his left as he flew by.
“All of my friends are thrilled,’’ Mascaro said. “[I am] extremely excited for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’’
Flyovers at sports events date to 1918, when more than 60 aircraft passed over Game 1 of the World Series at the old Comiskey Park. Babe Ruth pitched the Boston Red Sox past the Chicago Cubs 1-0 that day.
The first Super Bowl flyover occurred in 1968, when the Green Bay Packers trounced the Oakland Raiders 33-14 in Super Bowl II in Miami. A much closer game is expected on the ground Sunday. As well as a much more impressive show in the air.
“I’m definitely excited,’’ Gibson said. “There’s always a little bit of nervousness, just going out of your comfort zone and doing things that I know I haven’t done anything like this.’’
Just like Gibson, Mascaro expects to be awed this weekend. He has the privilege of watching the B-2 take off several times a week. Each time, his game plan is the same.
“I will stop and watch it,’’ Mascaro said. “It takes my breath away. In the context of the Super Bowl, it’s on a whole other level.’’Read comments