After a one-year hiatus, the elite U.S. Navy Blue Angels soared into the Long Island skies Thursday, arriving here for the 11th annual Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach State Park this weekend.
Federal budget cuts forced cancellation of military air shows last year, including the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds performances at Jones Beach.
The show was held last year, but with civilian and Canadian military performances.
"We're excited as heck that this year, the weather looks good; we have the United States Navy Blue Angels back," said George Gorman Jr., deputy regional director of state parks.
Thursday's demonstration at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale drew a crowd of more than 40, including some Long Island faithful who said they always come to the show.
"As many times as I've seen them, it's still exciting and exhilarating. It actually gives me butterflies," said Catherine Zinger of North Massapequa.
She said more than a half-dozen members of her family have been in the military, including her father who served in the Korean War. A 19-year-old niece is now in the Navy.
The air show, she said, reminds her of that history.
"The military has always been close to my heart," said Zinger, who watched Thursday's demonstration with her grandsons, Kyle, 4, and Logan, 2, and their father, Bryan.
Capt. Dusty Cook, a 10-year Marine veteran and one of the newest members of the Blue Angels, will make his first appearance at the Long Island show.
"I fly better when I see a whole bunch of people along the beach, and we're doing our maneuvers," said Cook, who flies the C-130, military transport airplane known as Fat Albert.
The air show will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday above Jones Beach in Wantagh.
Other military performers include the Army Golden Knights Parachute Team and the Navy Leap Frogs, which will make their second appearance since 2007.
Civilian performers include American Airpower Museum Warbirds, GEICO Skytypers and the Jack Links' Screamin' Sasquatch Jet Waco Aerobatic Team.
The Bethpage Air Show has drawn as many as 400,000 people over the weekend, according to the air show's website.
Shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday, six F-18 Blue Angel jets flew about 400 feet in the air in a tight triangle formation before breaking off.
"I just like these F-18s. I love the noise they make, the power behind them," Ken Amato, 51, a New York City firefighter who lives in Farmingdale, who watched the demonstration.
"These are world famous," he added, "and they're right here in our backyard."