The annual Bethpage Air Show will return to Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh for Memorial Day weekend 2016 on May 28-29. You’re probably aware there are jets doing stunts, but what do you know about those planes and the pilots? Ever wonder about the weekend totals? If you would like to get better acquainted with the aircraft, the fliers and the facts, you don’t need to look to the skies. Here are some things you may not know about the Bethpage Air Show.
Grumman ties to the air show
The 75th anniversary of Bethpage Federal Credit Union, the title sponsor of the air show since its inception in 2004, was celebrated in 2016. Bethpage FCU is the current identity of what was once the Grumman Corporation Credit Union, giving the financial institution strong ties to Long Island's aviation history. Pictured: Grumman employees pose in front of an F-14 jet in Calverton in 1970.
Get to know Sean D. Tucker
Tucker, named a "Living Legend of Flight" by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, is an inductee of both the International Aviation Air and Space Hall of Fame and National Aviation Hall of Fame. He is the only pilot ever to perform a "triple ribbon cut," flying through ribbons set only 25 feet off the ground, changing his aircraft's inversion as he flies in and slashes each of the three bands. Pictured: Sean D. Tucker of Team Oracle practices his routine as he gets ready to participate in the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach on May 27, 2011.
Why 'Blue Angels'?
Ever wonder why the Blue Angels are named as such? It's neither for artistic nor religious reasons -- the original team picked the name when they were planning a New York City show in 1946. One member dubbed the squad based on the former and once-famous NYC nightspot The Blue Angel.
Want to be a 'Blue Angel'?
The basics of becoming a "Blue Angel": Be qualified to operate aircraft on and around an aircraft carrier, and be deeply career-focused and an active-duty Marine Corps or Navy tactical jet pilot who has logged a minimum of 1,250 flight hours.
The boss of the air
Despite the obvious skill level required of the pilots taking part in the Bethpage Air Show, the aerobats don't just show up and buzz the beach at random. Air shows are run by someone known as an "air boss," and in the case of the Bethpage Air Show, the man in charge is Wayne Boggs. Boggs, a former Marine, has been flying since 1973 and was working as an air traffic controller in Chicago during the 1980s when the Federal Aviation Administration appointed him as a representative to a Chicago air show. As the air boss, Boggs controls the event air space and monitors other nearby active aviation, as well as running the runways, taxiways and all the demonstration areas.
Long Island's own aerobat
A Melville resident, Windmiller prepares for his performance by flying his Zivko Edge 540 daily for two months in advance, three or four times a day. "Being up there, flying over all the crowds, it's just great," says Windmiller, adding, "it's special to be doing something near home, especially because people I know can be there."
You won't be the only person buying a T-shirt
Apparel is a major sales item at the Bethpage Air Show, with an average 4,500 T-shirts, 1,500 hats and 1,100 sweatshirts sold during the two-day show at Jones Beach. Blankets (average 500 sold) and towels (average 700 sold) are also popular.
More than 19,000 pounds of French fries are served
What's the most popular food purchased during the Bethpage Air Show? Depends how you count, as burgers (average 8,000 sold) outdo hot dogs (7,000 sold) and pretzels (6,000) -- but more than 19,000 pounds of French fries are served as well. Then again, about 30,000 drinks are purchased, making thirst-quenching a top priority for guests.
Flying in for a slice?
Long Islanders come out by the thousands to the Bethpage Air Show in order to see aerobatic teams from around the world show their skills, but what attracts the squadrons to come our way to participate? Could be our pizza. According to air show officials, the performers and their support staffs tend to heavily crow about the awesomeness of New York pizza, so the air show makes sure to provide plenty of pies for all the airborne entertainers during the Friday practice show.
The Knights must 'smoke' at the beach
Created by the military in 1959 to compete in the sport of skydiving -- which at the time was dominated by the USSR -- airborne soldiers were gathered to form the Strategic Army Command Parachute Team, which was then renamed the United States Army Parachute Team two years later. Today, the Golden Knights have earned more than 2,100 medals in competition, along the way breaking almost 350 world skydiving records. But despite its sporting nature, the athletic art also can be dangerous -- which is why you see the use of smoke trails. The smoldering streams make for interesting visuals, but at the same time the smoke informs other Knights yet to make their jump about wind conditions -- certainly handy info to have before embarking on an earthward trip that spans thousands of feet. Pictured: An American flag is carried in by a Golden Knights paratrooper during the 12th annual Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach on Saturday, May 23, 2015.
Saturday vs. Sunday
The simplest secret about the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach State Park might actually be the most helpful for you and anyone attending: Officials say the Saturday show is almost always the less attended of the two days. Does this mean you definitely won't be surrounded by huge crowds if you decide to do the first day versus the Sunday finale performance? No, but when you head to an event that tends to bring hundreds of thousands of people to a location, when you know that parking lots tend to fill hours in advance of the show, and that traffic on the Wantagh and Meadowbrook parkways usually slows to a crawl as a result ... why not grab any advantage you can, right?