Editor’s note: This story was initially published on Sept. 10, 2023, by the Naval Air Force Atlantic Public Affairs Office. The full story can be read here.
Growing up in their native town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Cmdr. Jeffrey Creighan, commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 103 “Jolly Rogers,” and Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Healey, could only imagine participating in a flyover of their namesake city’s football stadium. Now, 24 and 16 years later, respectively, both naval officers had that opportunity when they participated in a flyover of Acrisure Stadium on Sept. 10 for the Pittsburgh Steelers home opener against the San Francisco 49ers.
“It is my hometown, (and) the Pittsburgh people represent a unique aspect of America that embodies the very same principles of naval service,” Creighan said. “Pittsburgh is a town built around values and a committed work ethic, which is how I was brought up. I see that when I return to visit family and friends; and it is great to get back home and engage with the people that make this city great!”
Returning to Pittsburgh to perform an NFL flyover on the eve of Sept. 11 serves as a patriotic moment for both aviators. During the attack on Sept. 11, 2001, Creighan was attending Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pennsylvania, while Healey was in middle school.
This year also serves as a special milestone for VFA-103. The squadron celebrated its 80th anniversary earlier this year. Over the past eight decades, five squadrons have used the name and insignia of the Jolly Rogers to include Fighter Squadron (VF) 17, VF-5B, VF-61, VF-84 and VF-103, which was later redesignated as VFA-103.
During the three-day visit to Pittsburgh, Creighan, Healey, and five maintenance technicians representing VFA-103 also met with local U.S. Air Force Junior ROTC cadets representing Plum Senior High School (just east of Pittsburgh) in Plum, Pennsylvania to discuss careers in aviation.
“Connecting with students who have walked the same hallways as I did 24 years ago at Plum High School is humbling and rewarding. The energy and aspirations that our youth have regarding aviation is incredible. This opportunity has hopefully inspired these Cadets that their dreams are achievable, and they can make a difference through military service,” Creighan said.
The students had an opportunity to meet with the pilots and maintenance technicians at Pittsburgh International Airport on Sept. 8 prior to the scheduled stadium flyover on Sept. 10. After the flyover, the pilots were recognized during one of the field activities planned during the live, televised football game.
For both Creighan and Healey, they have remained connected to their hometown through their immediate family members, extended family members and friends who still live there and contributed to their journey to one day achieve their goals of becoming a naval aviator.
“I love my hometown, my parents are still there, you don’t make someone like us without help and guidance,” said Healey, who attended Quaker Valley High School.
Flyovers provide the opportunity to show the public the capabilities of naval aviation and potentially recruit future pilots and sailors.
Naval Air Force Atlantic is responsible for seven nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, 54 aircraft squadrons, 1,200 aircraft and 52,000 officers, enlisted and civilian personnel with priorities focused on warfighting, people, and readiness by providing combat ready, sustainable naval air forces with the right personnel, properly trained and equipped, with a focus on readiness, operational excellence, interoperability, safety, and efficient resourcing.