The 12th Annual Long Island Air Show at Jones Beach, sponsored by Bethpage Credit Union, which took place May 23 and May 24, 2015, was notable for the return of favorites doing new tricks, the breathtaking demonstration by the US Air Force Thunderbirds, as well as debut of the Breitling team from France, doing heart-stopping maneuvers with military jets, and respectful tributes, including a fly-by of World War II era planes, Warbirds from the American Air Power Museum, to those who have died in the defense of the country and those who are putting their lives at risk today.
Rob Ryder was back (for the 11th year) with his incomparable narration, introducing us to the “forward flip”, “Hooley Loop,” “Alley Oop” (world’s smallest loop), Double Hammerhead, Snap Roll, Inverted Stop, Octagon Loop, Stall Turn, Frisbee Turn, Slider, and all the nuances and intricacies of the aircraft, the physical hardship the pilots undergo experiencing as much as 12Gs of positive force and 6 Gs of negative force (sometimes in the same maneuver). If you weren’t wowed by what your eyes were seeing, you were awed by what goes into “aerobatics”.
The climax, as always, are the demonstration team from the US military. This year’s headliner, the US Air Force’s air demonstration team, The Thunderbirds, delivered the most heart-stopping maneuver: an attack of the “solos” from right and left, coming at each other at an ungodly fast speed, barely missing each other. They demonstrated the precision flying of these state-of-the-art jets, flying within inches of one another.
You watch and you really can’t comprehend how they can do these maneuvers in three dimensions, with sun and clouds and ocean and wind variables.
“In 1947, while the jet age was still in its infancy, military aviation was hurtled into the future with the creation of the U.S. Air Force as a separate service. Just six years later, on May 25, 1953, the Air Force’s official air demonstration team, designated the 3600th Air Demonstration Unit, was activated at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The unit adopted the name “Thunderbirds,” influenced in part by the strong Native American culture and folklore from the southwestern United States where Luke Air Force Base is located.”
Making their heart-stopping debut at the Jones Beach Air Show, the Breitling Jet Team from France, which boasts being “the world’s largest professional civilian flight team performing on jets.” Its flying aces put its powerful and fast aircraft through a meticulously coordinated air ballet in which the force of 7 jet fighters fly within 3 meters of each other, at speeds of over 700 km/hr.
A personal favorite are the GEICO Skytypers, who fly military training planes and demonstrate military maneuvers, including simulating an attack, coming at each other at ridiculously fast speeds. The GEICO Skytypers Airshow Team is a flight squadron of six vintage WWII era U.S. Navy SNJ-2 trainers . The team performs a thrilling, low-altitude, precision-formation flying demonstration filling the sky and coming from all directions to provide spectators a unique viewing experience while showcasing the tactics and maneuvers utilized during training during WWII.
To finish off their performance, there is a race between two of the planes against Miss GEICO, a super-fast raceboat – a 50 ft. catamaran powered by over 3300 horsepower that enables speeds of over 200 mph. Miss GEICO has to contend with currents, waves and wind (which were substantial on Saturday), when the boat seemed to get the win.
A perennial favorite at Jones Beach is Sean Tucker, who performs impossible feats in a specially built, one-of-a-kind, most high-performance aerobatic aircraft in the world, the Oracle Bi-Plane. It is a fire-breathing monster with over 400 horsepower, weighs just over 1200 pounds, has a revolutionary set of wings that use 8 ailerons instead of 4, and responds to the slightest pressure on the control stick even at 300 mph. Sean has become so in-tune with his machine that, while performing, the control stick becomes his feathers and the aircraft, his body. To endure the extreme physical demands of each routine, Sean maintains a rigorous physical training schedule by working-out over 340 days per year in a routine of jogging and weight-lifting on alternating days.
Twice during the performance, Sean flues the aircraft backwards, straight-down, tail-first at more than 100 mph. More than half of Sean’s maneuvers are original and have never been duplicated by another aerobatic pilot.
Sean is the world’s only pilot to perform a triple ribbon cut. He flies through the ribbons at 220 mph in right knife-edge for the first ribbon, then left knife-edge and finally inverted. The ribbons are only 25 feet off of the ground and 750 feet between each set.
The announcer, Rob Ryder notes that radio-operated aircraft have gotten a lot of inspiration from Sean, but that Sean has also gotten inspiration from some of the antics devised by the radio-controlled planes. Indeed, the tail on Sean’s airplane is modeled after the tail used on high-performance remote control airplanes. Among his honors, Sean was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2008, was named one of the 25 “Living Legends of Flight” by the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum.
David Windmiller, Long Island’s hometown hero, 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.
David thrills spectators in his Zivko Edge 540 aircraft, built especially for aerobatics, with seemingly impossible feats at speeds of up to 220 mph that keep his peers and his fans in awe. Equipped with a custom built project engine of Teledyne, thrust to weight ratio over 1:1, Windmiller’s plane has a tremendous amount of power to perform aerobatics.
A resident of Melville on Long Island, New York, Windmiller is based out of Republic Airport in Farmingdale and this year is sponsored by the Cradle of Aviation Museum. He is starting an Aerobatics School in Farmingdale this year, and will be part of the Science Museum of Long Island’s aviation week summer camp in August (smli.org).
The event kicks off with a ceremonial parachute drop by a representative of the US Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights (who return later in the show for a full program), traditionally kick off the Air Show by delivering the American flag to a tiny target on Jones Beach, parachuting from an altitude of 12,500 ft, at speed of 120 mph. The whole team then returns for a demonstration performance.
The first maneuver involves two jumpers, who traveling at 120 mph come so close, they pass a 14-inch baton between them. In a second maneuver, four jumpers traveling together at speeds of 180 mph – like a guided missile – and come within inches of each other, then set up into a “traffic pattern” so they can land one by one on the tiny target on the beach.
Formed in 1959 to develop parachuting techniques, the U. S. Army Parachute Team have become “ambassadors” of the Army, the Army’s only official Demonstration team, promoting recruitment (www.armygk.com).
In a very moving display, dedicated this year to the 70th anniversary of VE Day, World War II-era Warbirds from the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport, did a flyover. Memorial Day weekend marked the return of the B-17 “Yankee Lady” – the pride of the Yankee Air Museum. (Flight experiences are available aboard this magnificent Flying Fortress by contacting the AAM public affairs office at 212 843-8010).
There also was the B-29, known as “Fifi,” the only flyable B-29 left.
Also in the complement was a C-47 fighter. and the C4U Corsair bent-wing fighter plane which the Japanese dubbed, “Whistling Death” for the sound it made.
“Fighter planes like these were used in the Doolittle Raid in April 1942 – the raid against which every other raid is evaluated,” Ryder noted. “He hooked up different types of aircraft that were never designed to work together.” Twelve B-25s were launched from aircraft carriers, including the USS Hornet.
Jeff Boerboon performed in a one-of-a-kind plane, John Klatt Airshows/Jack Links’ Screamin Sasquatch. Originally a classic 1929 Taperwing, famous for the barnstorms of the 1930s and 40s, the plane style is a Jet Waco, first introduced by Jimmy Franklin in 1999, modified and updated to be powered by two different engines, one of which is a jet engine.
Beyond the obvious aspect of adding a jet engine, The Screamin’ Sasquatch is highly modified in many ways. Every control surface has been specifically engineered for the unique aerodynamic forces encountered during high-speed flight. Portions of the aircraft’s structure have been converted from wood and fabric, to carbon fiber. The cockpit has been moved 3 feet aft, in order to accommodate fuel tanks for both 100LL and Jet A fuel. The cockpit is extremely modern and incorporates the MGL Avionics Stratomaster Odyssey touch screen system, which integrates all of the engine monitoring of both powerplants and the aircraft’s avionics systems – essentially combining a couple of dozen gauges into one screen.
The Screamin’ Sasquatch, Jack Link’s Jet Waco is powered by dual powerplants: a Pratt & Whitney 985 Radial Engine and a General Electric CJ610 (J85) Jet Engine with 3,000lbs of thrust. This system allows the plane to achieve feats other stunt planes are unable to do.The plane will be at a thrust ratio of 1 to 1, which allows it to accelerate going straight up.
Matt Chapman, flying for Embry Riddle, performs maneuvers in which he experiences as much as 9 positive Gs and 6 negative Gs. His Eagle 180 plane has parts from 3 countries. He’s also an American Airlines captain.
The incredibly popular Memorial Day Bethpage Air Show each year draws over 300,000 to Jones Beach State Park over the two days, and this year, the weather (though unseasonably cool on Saturday) was clear and sunny.
The event is also a reminder that Long Island used to be a powerhouse in the aviation industry, with Grumman. Mitchell Field (now part of the Roosevelt Field shopping mall) was also where Charles Lindbergh took off on his famous transatlantic solo flight to Paris.
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