Four Oklahoma F-16 Pilots To Perform Flyover At Packers-Bears Game

Friday, January 21st 2011, 4:31 pm
By: News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Four Oklahoma Air National Guard pilots will get to watch Sunday's Packers-Bears football game from the sidelines, and help out a fellow unit at the same time.

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

At last week's game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bears, a flight of four F/A-18 Hornets performed the flyover at the end of the national anthem.  It was shown live as part of the Fox network's coverage of the game and has been viewed countless times since on the Internet.

This Sunday's flight will be led by Lieutenant Colonel Rick Poplin.  The other three pilots will be Captain Sam Stephens, Captain Chris Wells and 1st Lieutenant Rob Vaccariello. 

Poplin says the Tulsa unit was requested to do the flyover by the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C. because the nearest unit, based at Madison, Wisconsin, is deployed to the Middle East.

The Tulsa pilots flew their jets down to Houston earlier this week to avoid the bad weather in Tulsa.  They'll fly to Madison on Saturday in a trip that will take about two hours.  The flight from Madison to Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon will take about 30 minutes.

Poplin says he and his wingmen have done flyovers at college games but never an NFL game.  He says they've done some amazing things overseas, but this is probably the coolest thing they've done stateside.

Two pilots, Major Eric Jauquet and Captain Mike Colony, will be on the ground to help coordinate the timing of the flyover.  All six pilots are from Tulsa.

The whole group has been working closely with the Chicago Bears organization to get the timing just right.  The singer will hold certain notes in the Star Spangled Banner in order for the jets to appear at the right moment.

"It's a big deal, and we hope people think about all the service members serving in harm's way who can't watch the game from home," said Poplin.  "We're hoping people think about that when we fly over.  We also do it to honor the guys watching in Afghanistan and Iraq."

Poplin is no stranger to spectacles.  In 2008 he organized a run in Iraq to coincide with the Tulsa Run.

9/11/2008:  Related story:  Runners Can Honor Service Members