Saturday, May 24, 2014

Stunt planes spiral and spin as Bethpage Air Show kicks off at Jones Beach

Temperamental weather didn't keep throngs from watching the U.S. Navy Blue Angels perform the aerial equivalent of synchronized swimming at 400 mph Saturday at the 11th annual Bethpage Air Show.

The crowd at Jones Beach State Park hooted and shrieked as the F/A-18 Hornet jets roared overhead in diamond formation, wingtips just 18 inches apart.

"Spectacular," said Jack Lynch, 63, of Merrick. "It's one of those performances you have to see to explain."

Jacky Dodge, 42, of Smithtown, was glad she "forced her kids to come" to what she called "the perfect American weekend -- watching the Blue Angels."

"They look like one plane when they fly," she said. "You want to go home and watch 'Top Gun.' It gives you chills. You just want to be up there flying with them."

Jones Beach park director Sue Guliani estimated 86,000 people caught the show, with warmer temperatures and sunshine expected to boost today's attendance to roughly 200,000. That two-day total would more than triple last year's 79,000 spectators, when the opening day was rained out and sequestration grounded military performers.

Saturday, the sky shifted between sunny and overcast, but spectators focused on what was in front the clouds, as stunt planes looped and corkscrewed over the ocean.

In the morning, the crowd went silent as pilot Sean D. Tucker's Oracle Challenger III biplane seemed to hang in midair, nose to the sky, before tumbling, twisting and swooping over the water.

"It's awe-inspiring how such a small plane can maneuver so well," said Luis Tua, 48, of the Bronx, who watched from the boardwalk with his 6-year-old son.

Later on, spectators cheered as an MV-22 Osprey, a Marine Corps aircraft that's part plane and part helicopter, hovered over the water, stirring up mist.

Curtis Pettaway, 66, of Roosevelt, who served in the Army's 864th Engineer Battalion in the Vietnam War, said he enjoyed meeting fellow veterans at the Memorial Day weekend celebration.

"I'm glad to see the ones who made it back," said Pettaway, as he watched the show with his 4-year-old granddaughter. "I recognize them by all the gray."

Story and comments:

Crowds of people watch the U.S. Navy Blue Angels perform in the sky while watching from the beach as hundreds attend the 11th annual Bethpage Air Show held at Jones Beach in Wantagh, Saturday, May 24, 2014.

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