BATH — A Maine National Guard refueling aircraft flew over Bath Iron Works and several hospitals across the state Tuesday in a salute to Maine’s essential workers.

The flyover, conducted by a KC-135 from the 101st Air Refueling Wing in Bangor, was part of Operation American Resolve, a nationwide nod to essential workers supporting COVID-19 response efforts. Other flyover locations included Maine Medical Center in Portland, the Bangor Veterans Home and the Androscoggin Mill in Jay.

“We were honored to be included in Maine National Guard’s salute to essential workers today,” BIW officials said in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “[The aircraft’s] route across the state included hospitals, veterans homes and other important work areas to recognize those who have performed the critical work that needs to get done.”

A Maine National Guard refueling airplane flew over BIW and several healthcare facilities across the state to salute essential workers Tuesday. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

While BIW, a subsidiary of defense and aerospace company General Dynamics, is not part of the military, President Donald Trump declared it essential businesses critical to the nation’s defense because it makes destroyers for the Navy. Because of this, the shipyard has remained open throughout the pandemic, drawing criticism from Maine lawmakers and union leaders who expressed concerns about the potential for an outbreak at the shipyard.

“The entire Maine National Guard is honored to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all the health care workers and first responders who are working on the front lines to combat COVID-19,” Maj. Gen. Douglas Farnham, Maine’s adjutant general, wrote in a May 8 statement. “We are also deeply grateful for those essential personnel diligently working to keep our shelves stocked and families supplied.”

Aside from constructing destroyers, BIW recently partnered with Guildford-based Puritan Medical Group to help double the production of nasal swabs used for COVID-19 tests. BIW is manufacturing 30 of the 40 specialized machines designed to boost Puritan’s production of swabs from 20 million per month to 40 million per month.

The shipyard is also 3D printing plastic face shields for Maine’s health care workers. The printers can produce 12 shields per day for MaineHealth, the state’s largest health care system. Last month BIW made its first delivery of 75 pieces of personal protective equipment to Maine Medical Center.

“While Maine people are known for their resilience in the face of any obstacle, the courage and compassion of our frontline workers who are serving their fellow citizens every day during these difficult times is second to none,” Gov. Janet Mills wrote May 8. “On behalf of the people of Maine, I want to express my deep gratitude for the service of our frontline workers, and I urge everyone to join with me in pausing to reflect on their many contributions to our state as we see our aircraft flying overhead.”

The KC-135 didn’t directly fly over Midcoast Hospital in Brunswick, but hospital spokeswoman Judy Kelsh said the hospital’s caregivers and employees “are so grateful for the thoughtful recognition of the National Guard, as well as the many gracious community members who continue to support us during this time.”

“During this time we are so appreciative of our nursing team and all of our team members who go above and beyond to provide compassionate, high-quality care today and every day,” said Kelsh.

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