Bandit Flight Team

The Bandit Flight Team in formation over the 2019 Veteran's Day Parade in Southern Pines. David Sinclair/The Pilot

The Bandit Flight Team will fly over Sanford, Pinehurst, Rockingham and Raeford on Saturday, May 16, to honor area healthcare and emergency services workers. The salute to these frontline heroes is sponsored by the Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) and the organizers of the annual Festival D’Avion.

“Like the many tribute flights we have seen across the country and in North Carolina, we wanted to do something similar for healthcare and emergency services workers, and everyone else on the front lines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Phil Werz, CVB president and CEO. “If people go outside to see the flyover, we simply ask people to have fun, take pictures and videos, but do so while social distancing. ”

The flyover will start in Sanford as the formation passes over Central Carolina Hospital at 11:45 a.m. From there, the Bandit Flight Team arrives over FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst at approximately 12:00 p.m, then over the Pinehurst Town Hall, and the police and fire departments before proceeding over the Carolina Hotel at Pinehurst Resort and Pinehurst Country Club.

The formation will then turn south for flyovers over FirstHealth MRH-Richmond in Rockingham at approximately 12:12 p.m. and FirstHealth MRH-Hoke in Raeford at 12:30 p.m, before the team heads back to Moore County for lunch at the Pik-N-Pig restaurant in Carthage.

Bandit Flight Team flyover map

Werz initially reached out to Peter Stilwell of Tarheel Communications Solutions with the idea for the tribute flight. Stilwell and Dave Droschak with Droschak Communication own and operate the Festival D’Avion, an annual celebration of freedom and flight, and honors men and women who have served in the armed forces.

 “We gave the Bandits a call and they were immediately interested in helping out,” Stilwell said.

The Bandit Flight team is a North Carolina-based group of formation pilots who fly vintage aircraft to preserve the military Warbird heritage, and as an opportunity to salute our returning war veterans. Typically the team will fly a maximum of six planes in demonstration formations; however, the tribute flight on Saturday, May 16, may include up to 10 vintage aircraft.

“The flyover will recognize our frontline healthcare workers and first responders. It looks like the weather will be beautiful and we expect them to arrive in Pinehurst right around noon,” said Stilwell. “There will be a lot of visibility.”

Looking ahead to fall, Stilwell is busily regrouping details for the 2020 Festival D’Avion. This year’s air show was postponed in April due to COVID-19. It has been rescheduled for Oct. 2-3, at Moore County Airport.

This year’s event will include a celebration concert featuring the Ultimate Eagles Tribute Band, a Runway 5K race/walk, special aircraft exhibits, scheduled flyovers, Warbird displays, precision jump team exhibitions, and other entertainment. Classic cars and trucks are also displayed during the event, plus area and regional food trucks, craft beer breweries, and North Carolina wineries and vendors will participate.

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