STATE COLLEGE, PA (WTAJ) — In 1918, in the final weeks of World War I more than 60 military planes flew over game one of the World Series. That show of military strength was the first of long line of military solutes during American sporting events, and Saturday with Ohio State in town a trio of Nittany Lions got a bids-eye view of Beaver Stadium.
“You always see pictures of it and like you’re in the stadium, but seeing, it flying overhead was really neat,” 2nd Lt. Jane Li, Penn State Class of 2019 said.
Li was one of three Penn State alumni who were aboard two Air Force HC-130s that flew over Penn State’s game. Li, Lt. Col. Jim Tuthill (class of 2002) and 2nd Lt. Alexandra Maldonado (class of 2020) are all part of the 415th squadron out of Kirkland Air Force base.
Li, class of 2019, grew up in Bellefonte but it took coming to Penn State to become a Nittany Lion football fan.
“Freshman year, everyone was like, Oh, you have to get like student tickets. I was like, Of course,” she said laughing.
While Li needed convincing to be a football fan, Lt. Maldonado grew up bleeding blue and white.
“My mother used to always stuff me in little cheerleader outfits, and I hated it because that’s just not my personality,” Maldonda said. “And then my aunt would take me to those sports stores and get me like a t-shirt and shorts and put me in t-shirts and shorts because I like that better.”
The crew flew in from New Mexico Thursday and took a practice run over State College. The key to a good flyover is nailing their timing.
“We just know that from our six miles inbound it’s going to take, at our certain airspeed, it’s going to take a minute and a half, let’s say,” Lt. Col. Jim Tuthill said. “So we know that once the national anthem starts, we need to be headed from six miles inbound, pointed towards the stadium to time it correctly.”
The crew took to the skies Saturday around 11 a.m., flying a few miles away out of eyesight waiting for their cue. And just ahead of noon, as the final notes of the national anthem rang that familiar rumble roared over the field, and for this team, it was mission accomplished.
“Being part of that game event, I’ve never been a part of anything other than just being a spectator. So that’s going to be the best is to just have that memory of being part of the game,” Tuthill said.
“Honestly, just to be back at a game. I think the flight is really cool” Li added, “I’m very excited. But just to be back where the energy is really neat and like it’s almost like being back at home”