Remember those old movies where the supporting player steps in for the star and saves the show? With popular U.S. military performers such as the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds absent from this year's air show lineup, the onus is on civilian aerial performers -- some with Long Island connections -- to provide the thrilling midair maneuvers and patriotic zing.
With the Thunderbirds and other military performers canceled by federal budget cuts, attendance is expected to be down from last year's 400,000, says New York State Parks spokesman George Gorman. Instead, the crowd should be closer to 2011's 250,000, when the Thunderbirds also were canceled but other military performers participated.
That leaves an opening for air show fans who aren't fond of traffic jams. "If you were afraid to come to the air show in the past because of traffic, this might be a good year to do that," Gorman says.
WHAT YOU'LL SEE
Despite its mostly civilian makeup, Gorman says the show will still feature "world famous air show entertainers" and will be "very patriotic." Among the flag-waving daredevils: the eight-member Ann Arbor-Mich.-based Misty Blues All-Woman Skydiving Team. The team, which performs at air shows throughout the United States, plans to make a patriotic splash in its Jones Beach debut.
"We're known for our big flags, including an American flag that is five stories long and three stories high, which we drag behind us," says Aleth Lohr Matrone, 49, a team member who lives in Kutztown, Pa. Matrone grew up in North Babylon, and her parents still live there.
Some military friends from up north will participate with the second air show visit from The Royal Canadian Air Force F18 Demonstration Team.
HORSE POWER VS. AIR POWER
Another expected show highlight: the race between a North American AT-6, piloted by Thomas Daly, 65, of Garden City, and a 50-foot custom-built catamaran with a nearly 3,300 horsepower engine.
If you're betting "airplane wins" -- think again. With the plane flying up to 220 miles per hour, and the boat capable of 200 mph or more, "on a really calm day, the race boat could beat the airplane," says Daly, associate dean of aviation at Dowling College in Oakdale.
DISNEY PLANES AND MORE Youngsters should enjoy the air show's version of a Thanksgiving Day Parade float: Dusty, star of "Disney's Planes," will show up to promote the animated movie that opens on Aug. 9. Dusty is actually an Air Tractor AT-301 airplane (better known as a crop-duster) customized to match the character's paint scheme and features.
Also making a Long Island debut at the Air Show: Rob Holland Ultimate Airshows, the Raiders Demonstration Team, and the Miss GEICO Speedboat.
Air show regulars on hand include Lt. Col. John Klatt of the National Guard Reserve, Sean D. Tucker of Team Oracle, Aerobatic Pilot Matt Chapman; Kirby Chambliss of Team Chambliss, the Red Bull Air Force Skydiver Parachute Team, Chuck Aaron of the Red Bull Helicopter Aerobatics and the American Airpower Museum Warbirds.
INFO 631-321-3510, bethpageairshow.com
ADMISSION $10 parking
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