Some come for the plays. Some come for the halftime show. Some come for the commercials. And yes, some are mainly in it for the opening flyover. This year, aviation nerds got a unique offering for the Super Bowl—Air Force Global Strike Command provided one each of their bombers—a B-52, a B-1, and a B-2. It would be the first bomber trio flyover for a big game. Although it wasn’t heavily promoted, the aircraft’s designations also add up to 55 (B-1 + B-2 + B-52=55), which was ideal for Super Bowl LV, or 55. The three bombers, with the B-2 in the lead, hit their mark exactly as Eric Church and Jazmine Sullivan reached the National Anthem’s crescendo, with the jets roaring by overhead, silhouetted against the Tampa Bay twilight. While the footage of the flyover was a little abrupt during the broadcast, one aviation photographer—our friend Mike Killian—captured the moment impeccably.
Mike set up across from the stadium in order to get the highly dissimilar formation of aircraft flying together in the same frame, all set against the evening sky. His work paid off, as he got some of the only striking images of the flyby under what were extremely challenging lighting conditions. This shouldn’t be surprising as Killian is known for shooting high-stakes subjects, including a huge number of rocket launches.
Mike also shot a static wide-angle video of the flyover from his perspective. You can hear his shutter snapping away in the background:
Here are some other perspectives of the big moment, as well:
The bombers came from Missouri, South Dakota, and North Dakota for the flyover, joining up over the Gulf of Mexico off Tampa to hold before pushing on towards their ‘target’ under the callsigns DRAGO 51, 52, and 53.
Tanker support for the flyover and the combat air patrol (CAP) of fighters that were also up in the area made for some busy military action over and around Tampa.
The bomber trio formation was so interesting not just because it represented the Air Force’s bomber inventory, but also because the airframes are so radically different from one another. The B-1B is a swing-wing, sleek design with powerful F101 turbofan engines that are capable of afterburning. The B-52 is the classic—a huge-winged, lumbering, eight-engined Cold War beast of an aircraft. Then you have the B-2, a pure flying wing and stealthy design. It is one eclectic threesome whose silhouettes underscore just how different they are. While they have been shot together over the years from time to time, they have never done so under such high-profile circumstances.
As always, news of the flyover rehashed the old debate about how much these kinds of endeavors cost. You can’t blame those who aren’t familiar with military aircraft operations to wonder about it. I addressed that on Twitter prior to the flyover:
So there you have it, Super Bowl 55’s flyover is in the history books.
Now if we could just get a trio of B-1Bs with afterburners lit to do it next time…
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com