Stepping Out

Looking skyward

Aerial stunts command attention at the Bethpage Air Show

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While we get ready to kick back over Memorial Day weekend and welcome the unofficial start of summer, those high flying pilots are kickin’ it up above, in the sky over Jones Beach. This spectacular two-day display of flying stunts — always an eagerly awaited annual prelude to summertime — on Saturday and Sunday, May 26-27, starting at 10 a.m., is headlined by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

Besides the Blue Angels the lineup features the return of the Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds and a special appearance by the U.S. Air Force’s elite F-22 Raptor. The stealth fighter aircraft will strut its stuff in a performance, which includes the Air Force’s Heritage Flight Team, that demonstrates its air dominance in fulfilling its air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.

The renowned Blue Angels Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron always delights air show visitors with unparalleled displays of flight precision, in keeping with the squadron’s time-honored tradition. 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.

This year’s lineup also includes the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team, the renowned air show pilot Sean Tucker performing in his custom-built Oracle Challenger II biplane; aerobatic pilot Matt Chapman; Lt. Col. John Klatt flying the Jack Links’ Screamin’ Sasquatch Jet Waco; the popular GEICO Skytypers and their flight squadron of vintage World War II aircraft; the American Airpower Museum Warbirds; the 106th Air Rescue Wing, with a HC-130 and HH-60 fly-by demonstration; along with the SUNY Farmingdale State College Flying Rams, who fly seven of their 22 college-owned aircraft, in a fly-by piloted by their top academic professional pilot performers.  

As always, air show favorites the GEICO Skytypers showcase the best of old and new. The Skytypers use six of the remaining 11 World War II-era North American SNJ-2 planes left in the world, which have been meticulously restored with the latest technology.

The GEICO-sponsored team is a familiar sight along beaches in the northeast with their skytyped messages generated at an altitude of 10,000 feet with puffs of smoke in dot matrix-style letters. Each letter is higher than the Empire State Building and messages can be seen from as far as 15 miles away.

But when it comes to their air show participation, it’s all about the flying. Much of the team’s low-level demonstration takes place in front of the crowd, The historic roar of vintage engines fills the air as the team demonstrates more than 20 different period-specific tactical maneuvers in a new 18-minute routine, introduced for this year’s air show season.

“The SNJs flown by our team were originally used as training aircraft for World War II pilots,” says Team Flight Lead Larry Arken. “We consider it an honor to demonstrate the amazing abilities of these vintage warbirds on behalf of our sponsor, GEICO, while sharing some rarely seen aviation history with air show crowds. At more than 75-years-old the SNJ-2 is a testament to the engineering genius of the Greatest Generation. These planes are a dream to fly.”

The Skytypers team remains based in Farmingdale, at Republic Airport, where the planes are maintained by a full-time staff of mechanics.

“Many of our team members [who live in the New York metro area] earned their wings in the military and we always pay tribute to the brave combat pilots who originally trained in our aircraft as well as those currently serving in the Armed Forces,” Arken adds.

“We are eager to perform our new routine. It’s extremely dynamic with totally new maneuvers, with added interaction within the air show space. In one of our new maneuvers the six aircraft turn into each other and cross paths. It’s a cool sight to see.”

“The pilots are excited every time they get in these planes to demonstrate their capabilities and love our new show. They’re very engaged, all professional aviators who want to bring their best to the spectators.”

“Be sure to come out to Jones Beach over the weekend,” he says. “It’s a great venue and a great family day. We love being here in front of our New York friends and family. It’s one of our favorite shows and we’re tremendously excited about this year’s lineup, with the Blue Angels and the Snowbirds.”

Bethpage Air Show

When: Saturday and Sunday, May 26-27, 10 a.m. Admission is free; standard $10 vehicle use fee will be collected upon entry.

Where: Jones Beach State Park, Wantagh. For up-to-date information, visit

www.bethpageairshow.com