As Demi Lovato was hitting her last note of the national anthem, the Vigilantes Strike Fighter Squadron was doing a flyover of Hard Rock Stadium at Miami Gardens, Florida, for the Super Bowl.
Chad Heirigs, 1995 MacArthur graduate and 19-year Navy veteran, was the commander in the stadium directing the flyover.
“It was awesome, fantastic,” Chad said of being part of the flyover. Chad and a pilot, Desobry Bowens, made a refueling stop in Lawton on Monday on their way back to Lemoore Air Station in California.
Sunday night, he got to meet and take a picture with Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt.
Chad spent much of his childhood in Lawrence, Kansas, and is a Chiefs fan.
“It was absolutely amazing to see them win. The crowd was three-fourths Chiefs fans,” he said.
Throughout the process of preparing for the flyover, Chad and other members of the flyover had the chance to meet the cast of the upcoming movie, “Top Gun: Maverick.”
“It was pretty cool. Overall, it was a neat experience.”
Desobry Bowens, who piloted an F-18 in the flyover, noted how humble the “Top Gun” cast was and how they really wanted to represent aviation in the movie.
From the base in Homestead, Fla., the flight was about 20 minutes, including a 15-minute holding pattern. Before the flyover.
“The sun was setting and reflecting on the bottom of the jets. It was also a nice view of the stadium,” Bowens said.
Though coordination with the NFL took months, both pilots said that the skills needed to do the flyover were ones they practice every day.
The flyover took a couple of seconds. The jets were traveling at 350 mph, according to Chad.
The timing of the event was crucial and carefully orchestrated to the second, according to Chad and Bowens. The timing of the song in Lovoto’s rehearsals helped the pilots prepare for their timing of the flyover. Throughout the flight and the singing of the anthem, they were constantly being updated on where the singer was within the song.
The other pilots in the flyover were Dan Kitts, Taylor Burgart Jr., Kali Billings and Adam Willington. They all were introduced after the third quarter and stood at the Chief’s end zone.
Chad has done maneuvers with the Blue Angels and numerous air shows throughout the country, according to his father, Ralph.
“That was cool, son,” Ralph Heirigs told his son during his brief stop in Lawton on Monday.
The love of flying runs in the family. His dad noted that Chad’s grandfather and some of his uncles were also pilots.
“He’s always wanted to fly,” Ralph Heirigs said.
When Chad was first learning to fly, his mother Roxanne would go up with him in a civilian plane.
“As soon as it (the Super Bowl flyover) was over, I texted him: ‘Too fast. Too high. Do it again,’ “ Roxanne said.
“The flyover was a culmination of our entire team effort, all 205 in the squadron. The significance is the pride and excellence of the division,” Chad said.