Boilermaker Flyover F-16 Pilot was from Utica
The 2019 Boilermaker Post Race Party featured a military flyover for the first time since 2009, and one of the pilots was actually from Utica.
Captain Nicholas Hanna, a 2003 Proctor graduate, and Major Steve Wilinski blasted their jets above the Boilermaker crowd at precisely 10:15:00 a.m. on Sunday, sending the celebratory crowd into a roar of cheers and applause.
"That was awesome! I could feel the rumble of the jets in my chest," said Dave Rodriguez who was volunteering for the Boilermaker Road Race which has featured nearly 15,000 runners on the first Sunday in July, for the last 41 years.
The flyover really was greeted with amazement, especially considering that for the last 10 years with military budget cuts, vintage World War II planes were called in to fill the F-16 void; but, what happened after the flyover, might be even more spectacular.
The Rest of the Story
After the jets flew by the brewery, they turned sharply upward through the clouds and began their travels north. Within 10 minutes, they were landing at Ft. Drum in Watertown and it was time for the second part of the journey for the two pilots. Hanna, who's family had gathered at the after-party, requested that if he were able to facilitate the fly-over, he would be able to make it back to the brewery in time greet the crowd in Utica. As you might imagine, getting the two pilots back to the post race party would take some extra planning.
It all started a few months ago when Hanna, knowing that F-16 flyovers had become hard to come by because of budget restrictions, made a cold call to the Boilermaker office. He told the Boilermaker's Jordan Peters that the Air Force might be able to facilitate a flyover, if a number of issues could be resolved. Senator Joseph Griffo's office was contacted along with Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol and the flyover attempt was put into motion. Griffo arranged for a helicopter to quickly meet Hanna and Wilinski at Ft. Drum after the flyover, and then fly them to Griffiss. There, the Oneida County Sheriff's Department would pick up the pilots and escort them the F.X. Matt Brewery, where they would be introduced to the crowd; but, only if they could get to the stage before the party had ended.
Sure enough, at 11:47, Jose from the band Showtime interrupted the music as Hanna and Wilinski were escorted onto the stage, where they received a hometown heroes ovation. "It's awesome to be home," said Hanna, as he thanked the Boilermaker, Griffo and the Sheriff's Department. "Thanks for showing up and giving me something to fly over!"
Hanna told WIBX's Keeler Show on Monday that he was inspired to be an Air Force pilot as a kid as he watched the jets fly over the Boilermaker, and now he hoped that by flying over this year's event, he could inspire some future pilots.
Hanna said the event was all about timing as the plan was to fly over the brewery just as the National Anthem was finished. He said they flew south over the Paris Hill area and created a circling pattern eight miles away and waited for the anthem to start. It would then take 90 seconds, the duration of the anthem, to fly directly over the post race party. The two fighter jets zoomed over the crowd at 1000 feet, just as the anthem singers sang, "and the home of the brave." It was perfect timing.
Hanna is based out of Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. The flyover was initiated out of Ft. Drum. (Listen to interview on Keeler, below)
Sheriff Rob Maciol thanked the pilots on Facebook:
"The Sheriff’s Office had the distinct honor of transporting Major Wilinski and Captain Hanna from their hotel to their F-16 Fighter Jets so that they could provide an awesome flyover at the Boilermaker Post-Race Party and then we brought them back to the party and up onto the stage to be thanked by a crowd of thousands and thousands of people ! Thank you for your service Gentlemen!!"
Watch Captain Nick Hanna address thousands of Utica Boilermaker fans at the F. X. Matt Brewery on Sunday, July 14, 2019, after piloting an F-16 flyover