ENJJPT instructors participate in flyover to celebrate the 100-year Italian Air Force anniversary (Commentary)

  • Published
  • By Maj. Giacomo Michelotti
  • 80th Flying Training Wing

To celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Italian Air Force, a group of five T-6 Texan II aircraft, flown by 10 Italian Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training instructors led by Lt. Col. Andrea Cerri, the Italian Senior National Representative, took off from Sheppard AFB on a historic round trip.

The mission saw them land and fly over sites of historical significance, with a particular focus on the common aviation history shared between Italy and the United States. In homage to this anniversary, the formation flew over Chicago and New York City. The flyover of New York City was a particularly poignant moment as the T-6s soared over the Hudson River with the Statue of Liberty and the city skyline as a stunning backdrop, proudly carrying the tricolor Italian flag. The celebration of Italian aviation history didn't end there. The T-6s also paid tribute to Gen. De Pinedo's epic 1927 "Four Continents" flight by landing in New Orleans. This was a fitting tribute to the Italian aviators who, over 90 years ago, made a significant contribution to the aviation history of both Italy and the United States.

The tour culminated on March 28, 2023, with a flyover of the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C., which included a missing man formation over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to honor all fallen service members. At the same time, a group of senior international officials gathered on the ground, including: the Ambassador of Italy to the United States, His Excellency Mariangela Zappia; the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force Maj. Gen. Julian C. Cheater; and the Italian Defense Attaché Maj. Gen. Maurizio Cantiello.

“This flyover was an expression of the long-standing bond between the Italian and American Air Forces and aimed to honor the common history they share,” said Cerri. “It also served as a tribute to the many aviators who have lost their lives in service to their respective countries. The missing man formation is a solemn expression of respect for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

“It is worth noting that this was the first time that a foreign piloted formation was given the honor of flying the maneuver over Arlington National Cemetery, a fitting location for this tribute, as it is the final resting place for many fallen service members, including Italian soldiers.”

The ENJJPT program's mission is to strengthen partnerships, train fighter pilots and develop Warrior Leaders for the NATO Alliance. Its vision is to produce the world's best combat pilots while fostering a spirit of international cooperation and understanding.

“The Italian instructors' participation in this flyover not only honored their own history, but also celebrated the strong partnership between the Italian and American Air Forces,” said Cerri. “Overall, the Italian Air Force's 100-year anniversary was a momentous occasion that was marked by this historic tribute. It served as a reminder of the sacrifices made by aviators in service to their countries and celebrated the enduring partnership between the Italian and American Air Forces.”