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Celebrate Independence Day in the air

Independence Day fireworks displays have always been a favorite of mine—after a day of reflecting on the sacrifices so many made for us to enjoy the freedoms we have today, the nighttime fireworks are like a celebratory “thank you.”

Crowds gathered along the East River to watch the fireworks. Photo by Filip Wolak.

I’ve experienced small-town and big-city fireworks displays in person and watched them on TV. But one of my favorites was watching backyard and small-town celebrations from the air during a night cross-country.

When the July Fourth holiday fell midweek in 2018, my husband and I decided to make a daytrip from Maryland to Ocean City, New Jersey, to relax at the beach and fly home in time to ride our bicycles from Frederick Municipal Airport to Baker Park downtown for the fireworks celebration. However, pop-up thunderstorms along our route prevented us from leaving in time to make it back to Frederick. Time for plan B: Fly back after the storms cleared and circle overhead the fireworks display before landing.

After enjoying dinner on the boardwalk, we rode our bikes back to the airport, folded and loaded them in our Cessna 170, and headed home at sunset. As it grew darker along our route, fireworks displays started to dot the landscape. For most of the 1.5-hour flight home, we watched mushroom-shaped bursts of color flash as far as we could see in every direction, each one representing some kind of celebration—a family or group of friends enjoying a backyard barbecue, a city capping off a day of festivities. And we got to enjoy them all, just the two of us, while enjoying one of our special freedoms—flying.

We made it back to Frederick just in time to watch the city’s grand finale from the air—a perfect finale to our Independence Day celebration.

While fireworks displays look great from ground level (this one at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in 2019), pilots have another perspective readily available to us. Photo by David Tulis.
Alyssa J. Miller

Alyssa J. Cobb

AOPA Senior Director of Media, Digital Media
AOPA Senior Director of Media, Digital Media, Alyssa J. Cobb began working at AOPA in 2004, is a flight instructor, and loves flying her Cessna 170B with her husband and two children. Alyssa also hosts the weekly Fly with AOPA show on the AOPA Pilot Video YouTube channel.
Topics: U.S. Travel

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