The 10th Annual Bethpage Airshow at Jones Beach was sentimental, not just for the milestone of a decade, and not even because Memorial Day is the kick off to summer, but because it also marked the reopening of Jones Beach State Park after the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy.
The event, as always, paid respect for veterans and their families and especially for fallen soldiers and their families.
The air show was cancelled for its Saturday show because of bad weather, but managed to get in on Sunday, despite heavy winds which prevented some of the performances. notably the debut at Jones Beach of the Misty Blues all Women Skydiving Team.
Crowds were lighter than usual – last year almost 400,000 attended during the two days – particularly since the event was crammed into one day, possibly because of the windy conditions, but probably because none of the US military teams – like the crowd-pleasing showstoppers, the US Navy Blue Angels and the US Air Force Thunderbirds- could perform because of the Sequester – the mandated budget cuts. In fact, the Thunderbirds were scheduled to return to Jones Beach this year but were grounded by the sequester.
Instead, Canada graciously sent its Royal Air Force CF-18 Hornet, piloted by Captain Patrick “Flocho” Pollen of 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec.
Senator Charles Schumer did not mention the sequester, but Governor Andrew Cuomo, who issued a proclamation designating May as Aviation Month in New York State, pushed to insure that Jones Beach State Park was open for Memorial Day and the Air Show, and noted the economic impact of the aviation industry on the state: a $50 billion industry at over 400 airports throughout the state, supporting 394,000 jobs – including pilots, hospitality workers, airport workers, engineers, maintenance crews – generating $18 billion in payroll taxes and $4.5 billion in tax revenue to the state. “New York State has a significant interest in continued vitality of this industry.”
The audience was thrilled at the daring and skilled performances:
One of my all-time favorites is the GEICO Skytypers Airshow Team, a flight squadron of six vintage WWII era U.S. Navy SNJ-2 trainers performing precision formation maneuvers. You actually get to see military-style maneuvers, including evasive action and attacks.There are only 11 SNJ-2 aircraft still in existence and the team flies six of these. Their low level precision formation flying combined with a thrilling aeronautical demonstration highlights the unique capabilities of the aircraft while adding a richness to the history of aviation and its core foundation.
Raiders Demo Team, based at the Flying W Airport in Southern New Jersey, in their first appearance at the Jones Beach Airshow, brought a three-plane routine, displaying the capabilities of the Yahkovlev 52 and Nanchang CJ6 aircraft in precision formation and solo aerobatic flight.
The American Airpower Museum Warbirds are always fascinating: this year, they brought back the B-17 “Yankee Lady” bomber. (Flight experiences are available aboard this magnificent Flying Fortress and other aircraft by contacting the AAM public affairs office at 212 843-8010). Also featured was a C-47, which has “invasion stripes” painted so when it is flying into placeslike Normandy, friendly troops don’t fire, best known for the “Berlin Airlift”, the C47 dropped food, clothing and medical supplies to keep Berliners alive during the Russian occupation after WWII . The museum’s C47 is one of the few flyable C47’s with a paratrooper configuration and is a WWII veteran, dropping troops for the D-Day invasion and also serving, most recently, with the Israeli Air Force.; a 1942 Vought G-1D Corsair, with its famous bent wing to allow for a large propeller, known as the “bent wing bird” or “whistling death”, best known for the “Black Sheep squadron, and the longest production run, 1940-1957, when 12,571 were built – 1942; a Consolidated PBY Catalina – 1939, used for reconnaisance; and T-28 Trojan fighter plane.
David Windmiller, a Long Island native, never fails to thrill Jones Beach audiences, but a few weeks ago, got an unplanned thrill when, flying home after practicing for the Jones Beach airshow, his engine suddenly seized up. He was able to bring the plane down, landing on Route 231 near Deer Park Avenue at the intersection of Union Boulevard and driving it off the ramp and onto the grass without hitting anything or injuring anyone. The propellers of the plane were ruined but otherwise the plane was okay. Today he flew in a borrowed airplane. Windmiller was only 14 years old when the flying bug hit him and he began taking lessons at a small airport on Long Island. On his 16th birthday he took his first solo flight. At 17, he started aerobatics without any training before he even had his pilot’s license. A resident of Melville, Windmiller is based out of Republic Airport in Farmingdale and sponsored by “The Waterfiller” personal water purification system.
Lieutenant Colonel John Klatt, never fails to thrill audiences. Both a combat pilot as well as a top aerobatic pilot, he is comfortable with both sustained and brief bursts of the G-forces which his tricks exert on him. He flew with the Air National Guard and has become one of the top aerobatic pilots in the country, for the ANG’s “Guarding America, Defending Freedom” aerobatic team. He has flown a wide variety of aircraft. His commission in the ANG gave him the opportunity to fly C-130 military transports delivering crucial supplies during Operation Desert Storm. John later transitioned from the C-130 into the F-16 “Fighting Falcon” and has completed three combat tours flying F-16′s in Iraq. John has logged more than 2,000 hours at the controls of the F-16, and is assigned to the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth, MN. For his aerobatics, he flies the Staudacher S-300D, only 1,250 pounds and topping out at 250 MPH, the Staudacher is a world-class aerobatic aircraft, purpose built for high-performance, unlimited aerobatics. It’s one wild ride, capable of pulling more than +/- 20 G’s, which is twice the load of the F-16 “Fighting Falcon” that John flies in his “day Job” as Lieutenant Colonel John Klatt with the 148th fighter wing of the Duluth Air National Guard. During his 15 minute routine, John knifes the Staudacher through an amazing series of heart stopping, pulse pounding, high-energy maneuvers that seem to defy gravity.
Sean D. Tucker in his signature red Oracle bi-plane, a fire-breathing monster with over 400 horsepower, weighs just over 1200 pounds and responds to the slightest pressure on the control stick even at 300 mph, employs a revolutionary design that use 8 ailerons instead of 4, and has a tail modeled after a high-performance remote control airplane. More than half of his maneuvers are original, he says, and never duplicated by another aerobatic pilot. Twice during the performance, Sean flies his aircraft backwards, straight-down, tail-first at more than 100 mph.
Matt Chapman is recognized as an extraordinary aerobatic pilot who thrills millions of airshow fans each summer. He flies the Embry-Riddle plane.
Kirby Chambliss, flying for Red Bull, jokes that he has spent so much time up flying his Zivko Edge 540’s, the plane controls and wings are a mere extension of his own arms.
We saw extraordinary aerobatics in a specially-engineered helicopter by Chuck ‘Malibu’ Aaron is the first – and only – civilian pilot ever to be licensed to perform helicopter aerobatics in the US. In fact, he’s one of only three of pilots permitted to execute the dangerous maneuvers internationally.
Making his debut at the Jones Beach Airshow, Rob Holland presented a thrilling display of altitude maneuvers.
Unfortunately, because of winds significantly greater than the 25 mph limit, Jones Beach will have to wait for the debut of the Misty Blues All Woman Skydiving Team and the Miss GEICO Speedboat.. The Red Bull Skydiving Team also had to be cancelled.
The event is sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union, Newsday, and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Karen Rubin, Long Island Eclectic Travel Examiner
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