Oklahoma Airmen Fly High Over Packers-Bears Game

Sunday, January 23rd 2011, 6:42 pm
By: News On 6

Lacie Lowry, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- There's always a lot of spectacular moments in NFL playoff games. And one high-flying moment in Sunday's game between Green Bay and Chicago happened off the field, courtesy of four Oklahoma men.

Four members of the 138th Fighter Wing based in Tulsa performed a flyover in their F-16 fighter jets before the game at Chicago's Soldier Field Sunday.

Strategically placed in the crescendo of the national anthem, the flyover fired up the crowd. 

"It went really, really well. Everything came together with everything and there was a lot of coordination that was involved, but everything came together right in the end," said Rick Poplin, Tulsa's 138th Fighter Wing.

Lieutenant Colonel Rick Poplin, Captain Sam Stephens, Captain Chris Wells and 1st Lieutenant Rob Vaccariello are with the 138th Fighter Wing based in Tulsa.

They filled in for some Wisconsin National Guardsmen who were supposed to do the flyover, but were recently deployed to the Middle East.

"It was a huge honor because we knew it was a big stage and we knew we were representing the Air Force and the Oklahoma Air National Guard," said Rick Poplin.

The pilots say they've done flyovers at college games, but never an NFL game.

"Never anything that was on national television like this, so there was a lot more... there was pressure," Poplin said.

The whole group worked closely with the Chicago Bears organization to get the timing just right. The singer held certain notes in the Star Spangled Banner in order for the jets to appear at the right time.

All that practice made for one show-stopping moment. And for a job well done, the pilots got to watch the big game from the sidelines after the flyover.

"I can't say enough about the people of Chicago. They were so patriotic and everyone was stopping to shake our hands and things like that. So even though they lost in the game, unfortunately, they were just great. It was a good day to be an American," Poplin said.