Get extra lift from AOPA. Start your free membership trial today! Click here

2020 flyover of nation's capital announced

Second Arsenal of Democracy marks end of World War II

Editor's note: Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover of Washington, D.C., has been rescheduled for September 25, 2020. All events associated with the flyover will now take place the week of September 20.

The Arsenal of Democracy Executive Planning Committee announced during a Jan. 7 press conference that a second Arsenal of Democracy Flyover will take place May 8, 2020, to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe and in the Pacific.

Framed by flags surrounding the base of the Washington Monument, the Commemorative Air Force's B-29 "Fifi" banks during the Arsenal of Democracy: World War II Victory Capitol Flyover on May 8, 2015. A second Arsenal of Democracy Flyover will take place Friday, May 8, 2020. Photo by Mike Collins.

The first Arsenal of Democracy Flyover was May 8, 2015, to mark the seventieth anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. Tens of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall between the Lincoln and Washington memorials, to watch or take part in celebrations that included a ceremony at the World War II Memorial, and the World War II Victory Capitol Flyover itself that featured 56 historic World War II-era aircraft.

The 2020 event will be nearly twice as large, with nearly 100 vintage warbirds of various types expected to participate. The U.S. and Allied aircraft will fly overhead in 24 separate, historically sequenced formations that will represent the war’s major battles, from the Battle of Britain through the final air assault on Japan, and conclude with a missing man formation. Aircraft are being provided by multiple organizations, including the Commemorative Air Force, museums, foundations, and individual owners.

The Arsenal of Democracy: 75th World War II Victory Commemoration Flyover will coincide with a ceremony for veterans at the National World War II Memorial. Other planned events include a gala dinner May 7, 2020, in historic Hangar 7 at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport paying tribute to World War II veterans, where combat heroes will share their personal experiences.

On the same day, the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial, currently under construction on the Mall across from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, will be dedicated. The new memorial will honor Eisenhower as the thirty-fourth president of the United States and as supreme commander of Allied forces in Wordl War II.

Four liasion aircraft fly in formation above the National Mall in Washington, D.C., during the Arsenal of Democracy: World War II Victory Capitol Flyover on May 8, 2015. Photo by Mike Collins.

The Arsenal of Democracy’s executive planning committee includes Pete Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association; Hank Coates, president and CEO of the Commemorative Air Force; John Cudahy, president of the International Council of Air Shows; Mike Ginter, vice president of airports and state advocacy for AOPA; and Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

“Just as in 2015, this flyover will be conducted for the sole purpose of honoring those who fought in the epic struggle and the men and women on the home front who created the arsenal of democracy,” Bunce said. “We hope that by recognizing their sacrifices and achievements, all Americans, especially our younger generations, can reflect and be inspired by what can be achieved when a nation unites for a common and just purpose.”

The event will be “a carbon copy of the way we ran it last time, but we want to make it better,” he said. Bunce noted this will be the last chance to get World War II veterans together and say thanks to those who are still around.

“Our flyover down the National Mall on May 8 will be the most visible event of the weekend, but we have also scheduled a number of supporting events,” Cudahy said. Participating aircraft will be on display at Manassas Regional/Harry P. Davis Field and Culpeper Regional airports in Virginia—where they will stage for the flyover—on the days preceding the event, and some aircraft will be displayed the day following the flyover at a location to be determined, he explained. “Our expectation is this whole event is going to be paid for with private money,” Cudahy added.

“As you might be aware, these aircraft are expensive. They’re special entities,” Coates commented. “Aircraft in museums are great, but they’re really not airplanes unless they’re flying, right?” He also said the event is not exclusive to the Commemorative Air Force. “Our people have to go through the same stringent selection criteria.”

“The flying portion of this event is the easy part,” said Ginter, who helped to organize the 2015 flyover. “Our mission is to make this safe and professional.” He and other organizers will work closely with the Manassas and Culpeper airport staffs. “We partnered with them in 2015 and it was very successful.” Extensive coordination with multiple federal agencies and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport also will be required, he noted. “We’ve already begun that planning.”

“Controllers today still reminisce about the flyover in 2015,” said NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, standing in for Rinaldi. “NATCA and the 20,000 aviation safety professionals we represent are very honored to again be a part of the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover.”

Three restored North American B-25 Mitchell medium bombers from World War II fly past the Washington Monument on the National Mall during the Arsenal of Democracy: World War II Victory Capitol Flyover on May 8, 2015. Photo by Mike Collins.

The flyover will bookend another significant event, when the Battleship Missouri Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific with programs and ceremonies from Aug. 29 to Sept. 2, 2020. “The Sept. 2 ceremony will pay remembrance and tribute to the historic signing of the document of surrender on the deck of the Battleship Missouri on September 2, 1945, which brought WWII to an end,” said USS Missouri Memorial Association President and CEO Mike Carr. “It’s probably the last time we can physically honor the members of the Greatest Generation.”

A possible science, technology, engineering, and math component for the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover is being discussed, the committee noted, to help showcase the technological innovations that resulted from the conflict. The United States manufactured about 300,000 aircraft, 2.4 million military vehicles, and 124,000 military ships to support the U.S. and Allied War efforts. As an example, military aircraft production grew from fewer than 6,000 aircraft in 1939, to a peak of 9,000 aircraft per month in March 1944.

“We’re going to use this to show the young people of America where we came from,” Coates said. “You can be a pilot—you can be an engineer.”

More information about the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover, including sponsorship opportunities, can be found on the website. The organization has been recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) charitable entity.

Mike Collins
Mike Collins
Technical Editor
Mike Collins, AOPA technical editor and director of business development, died at age 59 on February 25, 2021. He was an integral part of the AOPA Media team for nearly 30 years, and held many key editorial roles at AOPA Pilot, Flight Training, and AOPA Online. He was a gifted writer, editor, photographer, audio storyteller, and videographer, and was an instrument-rated pilot and drone pilot.
Topics: Vintage

Related Articles