Fighter jet conducts rare flyover of White House in honor of Polish president

By Grace Segers

/ CBS News

An F-35 Marine Corps fighter jet conducted a flyover of the White House Wednesday, marking a visit by Polish President Andrzej Duda and Poland's decision to purchase several F-35 jets. This was the first intentional flyover by a military plane over the White House since 1911.

The F-35 flew to Washington, D.C., from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina, and passed over the White House at around 1,000 feet. Washington, D.C., is restricted airspace, and so flyovers rarely occur over the city itself, even if they are conducted over the nearby Arlington cemetery. In 2015, antique World War II planes conducted a flyover of Washington for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

President Trump, Duda, and the leaders' wives came outside of the White House to watch the flyover. The F-35 is the military's most advanced aircraft. However, no alert was sent to D.C. residents and workers about the planned flyover, causing some concern and confusion as the fighter plane soared through restricted airspace. The official White House Twitter account did advertise the flyover shortly before it occurred.

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The cost of the flyover is unclear. It's possible that that the pilot of the F-35 could have used the trip for training.

The cost of the F-35 is currently around $35,000 per flying hour, according to Lockheed Martin Vice President and General Manager F-35 Program Greg Ulmer.

"Today it is different customer by customer but I think $35,000 per flying hour is a good number," Ulmer told Reuters in an interview in February.

However, the Pentagon's cost assessment office found that the F-35 cost $44,000 per flying hour, according to Defense One. Although there is an effort to lower the cost of flight per hour to $25,000 by 2025, the Pentagon said in May that it was unlikely to reach that goal.

Beaufort, South Carolina is around 550 miles away from Washington, D.C.

The U.S. and Poland have signed an agreement to enhance the two nations' military cooperation, Mr. Trump announced alongside Duda at the White House on Wednesday. The U.S. is looking to send at least 1,000 troops already in Europe to Poland.

First published on June 12, 2019 / 4:49 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Grace Segers

Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.

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