PHOTOS: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by over White Rock pier for son amid border separation

Four-year-old Ethan Fritz waves at his dad with his mom Alyssa, from the end of White Rock Pier. Pilot TK Minzak – who flies reserve for the U.S. Air Force, organized the fly-by after months of not being able to see Ethan due to border restrictions during the pandemic. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Ethan Fritz, 4, had a message for his dad, pilot TK Minzak Friday (Aug. 7). (Tracy Holmes photo)
Four-year-old Ethan Fritz looks for the incoming U.S. Air Force transport plane piloted by his dad TK Minzak, who organized a fly-by of the White Rock Pier Friday (Aug. 7) morning, after months of not being able to see Ethan due to border restrictions during the pandemic. (Tracy Holmes photo)
A U.S. Air Force C17, piloted by Lt.-Col. TK Minzak, flies over White Rock Pier Friday (Aug. 7) morning. (Star Hannah photo)
Ethan Fritz, his mom and other family members watch as the C17 transport plane piloted by Ethan’s dad returns to U.S. skies. (Tracy Holmes photo)
A U.S. Air Force C17, piloted by Lt.-Col. TK Minzak, flies over White Rock Pier Friday (Aug. 7) morning. (JimWilson.ca photo)

Friday was a big day for South Surrey youngster Ethan Fritz – after months of separation due to pandemic-related border restrictions, he got to see his daddy.

Well, sort of.

One thing is for certain: the visit – in the form of a U.S. Air Force transport plane over White Rock Pier – caught the attention of waterfront residents and visitors.

Acknowledging it likely took at least a few people off-guard – one woman who called Peace Arch News described the unexpected sighting of the “huge” craft as “so close… so scary” – Ethan’s mom Alyssa Fritz said there simply wasn’t time to spread the word in advance.

“I was in-between if it was a good or a bad idea,” she said. “I couldn’t pass it up, my son seeing his dad.

“We all went out of our way to make it happen.”

Four-year-old Ethan has only seen his dad, Lt.-Col. TK Minzak, through video calls since his birthday in early March, Fritz explained, and the separation has been difficult for someone so young to understand.

“When you’re four, it’s really hard,” she said.

“With the way things are and just the job that his dad does… it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to see him anytime soon.”

Minzak, who is originally from Texas, is a pilot for Alaska Airlines and flies reserve for the U.S. Air Force, Fritz continued. Pre-pandemic, she and Ethan routinely travelled to Seattle for family visits.

But that all came to an end in March.

READ MORE: B.C. declares state of emergency, recalling legislature for COVID-19

Thursday night, however, Fritz received news that Minzak had organized a special visit for Ethan – permission to do a low-level fly-by of the White Rock Pier in the C17 transport plane he was piloting for a training exercise.

Ethan, his mom and several family members gathered at the end of the pier for the occasion. Minzak was to approach from the direction of Point Roberts and make two passes before returning to U.S. air space.

As the plane appeared in the distance, the excitement built.

“Look, just for you,” Fritz exclaimed to Ethan as the plane came in for its first pass and did a ‘wing wiggle’ greeting. “He’s waving.”

After, Fritz said Ethan couldn’t wait to share the experience with his friends at daycare.

“He was just so happy and excited,” she said.

“It’s not like a deployment,” she noted of Minzak’s absence. “It’s like, his dad is right there and we just can’t get to him.

“Today, it was like a visual – ‘my daddy’s there.’”



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

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