Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bethpage Air Show is a Memorial Day weekend favorite

The renowned Blue Angels will be in action over Jones Beach this weekend.

The eagerly awaited arrival of Memorial Day on Monday is sure to be enthusiastically welcomed by everyone, after this year’s harsh winter. And, as always, the unofficial kickoff to summer fun for Long Islanders begins – and remains — with a trip to Jones Beach to watch those thrilling aerial maneuvers in the skies unfold during the Bethpage Air Show. This year’s spectacular two-day display of flying stunts over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday and Sunday, May 24-25, marks the return of an air show favorite: the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

The Blue Angels are joined by other elite military pilots, including the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team, the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs (making their second appearance since 2007) and the MV-22 Osprey — performing at the Bethpage Air Show for the first time.

As always, in addition to the military headliners, the roster features the nation’s premiere civilian pilots who continue to enthrall audiences on the air show circuit. These expert aerobatic performers include American Airpower Museum Warbirds, the GEICO Skytypers and the Miss GEICO Speedboat, Sean D. Tucker of Team Oracle, Lt. Col. John Klatt with his Air National Guard MXS, aerobatic pilot Matt Chapman, aerobatic daredevil David Windmiller, and the Red Bull Air Force team of skydivers, BASE jumpers, wingsuit fliers, and paraglider pilots, along with John Klatt Airshows’ Screamin’ Sasquatch Jet Waco Aerobatic Team, which is making its debut to the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach.

These renowned fliers will perform precision demonstrations over the shoreline at Jones Beach that continue to amaze and delight the hundreds of thousands of visitors who attend each year, gazing at those acrobatic turns and commanding displays of flying expertise.

“The Long Island community is buzzing with excitement about this year’s show, and the return of an elite military jet team,” said Linda Armyn, Bethpage senior vice resident, corporate strategy. “Each year the Blue Angels perform, we see record numbers of fans convene on Jones Beach, and that makes for an exciting holiday weekend.”

The renowned Blue Angels Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron continues to astonish air show visitors with their unparalled flight precision, in keeping with the squadron’s time-honored traditions. A total of 16 officers voluntarily serve with the Blue Angels. Each year the team typically selects three tactical (fighter or fighter/attack) jet pilots, two support officers and one Marine Corps C-130 pilot to relieve departing members.

The Chief of Naval Air Training selects the “Boss,” the Blue Angels Commanding Officer. Boss must have at least 3,000 tactical jet flight-hours and have commanded a tactical jet squadron. The Commanding Officer flies the Number 1 jet.

Career-oriented Navy and Marine Corps jet pilots with an aircraft carrier qualification and a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet flight-hours are eligible for positions flying jets Number 2 through 7. The Events Coordinator, Number 8, is a Naval Flight Officer (NFO) or a Weapons Systems Officer (WSO) who meets the same criteria as Numbers 2 through 7. The Marine Corps pilots flying the C-130T Hercules aircraft, affectionately known as “Fat Albert,” must be aircraft commander qualified with at least 1,200 flight hours.

The Blue Angels base their selection of officers on professional ability, military bearing and communication skills. Blue Angels officers are well-rounded representatives of their fleet counterparts.

Demonstration pilots, the Events Coordinator, Maintenance Officer and Flight Surgeon serve two years with the squadron. The other officers typically serve three years with the team. Blue Angels officers return to the fleet after their tours of duty.

New to this year’s air show is the MV-22 Osprey, a multi-mission, military tilt rotor aircraft with both a vertical takeoff and landing and short takeoff and landing capability. It is designed to combine the functionality of a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft. The U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force operate the Osprey.

Another popular aviator, Lt. Colonel John Klatt, an active member of the Air National Guard, who fought in Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom, will take fans through an amazing sequence of jaw-dropping aerial maneuvers. Klatt 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. He later transitioned from the C-130 into the F-16 “Fighting Falcon” and completed three combat tours flying F-16s in Iraq.

Klatt is also represented by his John Klatt Airshows’ Screamin’ Sasquatch Jet Waco Aerobatic Team, which is making its Bethpage Air Show debut. The airplane, a Taperwing Waco made famous by barnstormers of the 1920s and ‘30s, adds the modern twist of a jet engine that will thrill spectators with amazing sights and sounds. Klatt
and Jeff Boerboon, a U.S. Unlimited Aerobatics Champion, will pilot the Screamin’ Sasquatch.

Another air show favorite, the GEICO Skytypers, combine the best of the old and new. The team flies vintage World War II aircraft while utilizing the latest technology to skytype their messages. The pilots fill the sky from all directions to provide spectators a unique viewing experience while showcasing the tactics and maneuvers utilized during training during World War II.

The GEICO Skytypers use six of the remaining 11 North American SNJ-2 planes left in the world to write messages at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Each plane has been restored and equipped with a computer that coordinates the smoke puffs from the aircraft. The team “types” messages at 10,000 feet with puffs of smoke in dot matrix-style letters.

“The contrast between the advanced technology to produce the messages paired with a 1940s vintage aircraft is truly unique,” said Steve Kapur, GEICO Skytypers’ marketing officer and reserve pilot. “The Bethpage Air Show has always been one of our favorite shows. Many people know and recognize our skytyped messages along the beaches in the northeast. The air show at Jones Beach gives us a chance to show people a different side of the team. We will perform an 18-minute low-level flying demonstration during the air show weekend which highlights the maneuvers and formations used during World War II.”

In a new element to their performance, which debuted last year, a catamaran challenges a team member from the GEICO Skytypers in a high-speed, sea-air duel between the pilots and their water-borne counterpart, the Miss GEICO powerboat team. Four GEICO Skytypers will fly along the waterfront in a tight formation and race Miss GEICO on the water below. While the catamaran is capable of higher top speeds than the planes flown by the Skytypers, weather conditions handicap the watercraft and even the odds. Skill and expertise will prove the ultimate victor in this battle.

The crowd-pleasing event is always a big draw, with more than 100,000 people typically showing up each day.

Bethpage Air Show
Saturday and Sunday, May 24-25, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Free to the public but the standard $10 vehicle use fee will be collected each day upon entry. Visitors are advised to arrive before 1 p.m. for the best parking spots. There is no vehicle use fee charge for 2014 NYS Empire Passport holders.

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