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A different kind of fireworks: look to the skies for July 4 F35 flyover

The Air Force's F-35A demonstration team based in northern Utah will perform a flyover for July 4, updating a Hill Air Force Base tradition. (Photo credit KSL)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — Independence Day celebrations across the U.S. may look different this year, as communities cancel fireworks shows to enforce social distancing. But for Northern Utahns, one tradition lives on: the F35 flyover. 

Air Force Reserve Pilots from the 419th Fighter Wing will fly over Vernal and Park City Saturday in honor of July 4 — a tradition that is over 30 years old. Utah residents can catch a glimpse of four F-35A Lightning II jets as they fly across the Wasatch Front.  

The pilots plan to take off around 9 a.m. — making an appearance over the Salt Lake City area — before landing just after 11 a.m.

The wing typically supports about 20 community celebrations every year for July Fourth, but canceled most this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the tradition will live on, officials say. 

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Pilots completing the F35 flyover include Maj. Jeff Harding, Maj. Justin Cleveland, Maj. James Russell and Maj. Dan Toftness — who have a combined 7,7000 flying hours throughout their military careers. 

An additional 40 maintainers and support personnel from the 419th Wing and active duty 388th Wing will also be working Saturday to make the flyover possible. 

The 419th Fighter Wing is composed of nearly 1,300 personnel who serve part-time in the military, but consider themselves full-time members of the local community. Most live, work and raise their families in Northern Utah — where the flyover will take place on the Fourth of July. 

The 419th Wing is the first unit in the Air Force Reserve to fly a deploy with the operational F-35A jet. The 419th and 388th Wings at the Hill Air Force Base fly and maintain a fleet of 78 jets in a Total Force partnership — capitalizing on the strength of both active duty and Reserve components.