Warbird Thunder performs at the Bethpage Air Show at Jones...

Warbird Thunder performs at the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach on Sunday before clouds brought the performances to a halt. Credit: James Carbone

Cloud cover at Sunday's second and final day of the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach forced organizers to end the show early and cancel several scheduled performances, including by the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels.

Officials with the air show, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this weekend, announced that flights were done at about 1:45 p.m., nearly two hours after a U.S. Navy F-35C stealth bomber wowed the crowd with its sonic booms and gravity-defying routine.

Several pilots scheduled to perform flew above the cloud cover to scope out the situation before determining it was not safe to continue, officials said.

“Each performer made their decision that they had to cancel,” said George Gorman, Long Island regional director of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “They wanted to perform so badly, they came over to Jones Beach above the crowd to see if there was any way they could perform and they were not able to, which is unfortunate.”

Large crowds

Gorman said more than 182,000 people came to watch the air show Sunday, capping off a busy weekend. More than 171,000 people attended Saturday, on top of a record-breaking crowd for the Friday rehearsal.

Spectators and beachgoers at the Bethpage Air Show at Jones...

Spectators and beachgoers at the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach on Sunday. Credit: James Carbone

“We had to open up additional parking fields,” Gorman said of the Friday morning practice run, adding that the crowd was estimated to be 106,000.

“The highest we ever saw on a practice day was 67,000,” he said.

Daredevil pilot David Windmiller warmed up the crowd shortly after 10 a.m. with an aerial display of tumbling and spinning through the air in a single-engine Zivko Edge 540.

Another performance featured a massive, four-engine C-130 Hercules from the 106th Air National Guard Rescue Wing based in Westhampton Beach. It flew alongside two HH-60G Pave Hawk search-and-rescue helicopters, which can help with a midair refuel.

By 11 a.m. Sunday, the number of spectators watching the early performances had grown so large, officials temporarily shut down entrances to Jones Beach from the Meadowbrook, Ocean and Wantagh parkways. The same thing happened Saturday at 10:30 a.m. 

Sunday wasn't a total loss at the Bethpage Air Show,...

Sunday wasn't a total loss at the Bethpage Air Show, as these spectator show, looking up at one of the performances before the cancellation was announced. Credit: James Carbone

By noon, the clouds had rolled in and the top of the Jones Beach Water Tower was shrouded in fog. Demonstrations by pilots from Farmingdale State College's Aviation Center and the American Airpower Museum were canceled.

“Our planes fly in close formation under visual flight rules,” said Darin Laby, aviation safety officer at Farmingdale State College. “Given the weather at Republic Airport, we weren’t able to make our time slots in the show. Our crew made the right decision … always safety first.”

Still reason to celebrate

Heather Kalan, of Atlantic Beach, came to the air show Sunday with her father, Sam Klein, and her 5-year-old son, Ethan. Klein had been talking about the Blue Angels with his grandson, who even watched a documentary about them.

“I’m disappointed,” Klein said, adding Ethan “wanted to see the Blue Angels, Fat Albert (the Blue Angels support aircraft) and the historical planes.”

Klein, of New Rochelle, also looked on the bright side: “At least we didn’t get wet.”

Shea Casey’s family has made a tradition of attending the show on an annual basis because it coincides with his parents' wedding anniversary. The cancellation didn't ruin a pleasant day at the beach, he said.

“My favorite part was the fighter jets,” said Shea, 12, adding that he had been looking forward to seeing the Blue Angels again.

Earlier, 13-year-old Brandon Vasquez, of Patchogue, and his family waited out a delay before the cancellation by checking out boardwalk booths offering everything from free photos with aircraft-themed backgrounds to T-shirts and other air show merchandise for sale.

“It was good, I liked everything,” said Vasquez, who has attended several air shows over the years. “The disappointing part, " he added, "was that it was cloudy,” forcing several performers to cancel.

Three-year-old Joe Quinn — a fan of airplanes, helicopters and “any kind of transportation,” according to his mother, Stephanie — did get a glimpse of the Blue Angels in action, just not Sunday.

He spotted them in the sky over Merrick on Saturday as the family ran errands.

“I promised I would bring him here today,” said Joe's mother, who made the early morning trek to Jones Beach with her mother, Kathy Flanagan.

Nkosi McRae, who graduated last week from Farmingdale State's aviation program and is on his way to becoming a flight instructor, said he hoped to be more than a spectator at next year’s show. The school’s demonstrations are piloted by instructors.

“Next year, I think that's where I’m going to be,” he said, looking up at the sky.

With Brianne Ledda

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