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Bethpage Air Show offers low flights with cloudy 2nd day

The Air Force Thunderbirds fly in Delta formation

The Air Force Thunderbirds fly in Delta formation during a rehearsal for the 2017 Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach in Wantagh on Friday, May 26, 2017. Credit: Barry Sloan

The second day of the 14th annual Bethpage Air Show provided aerial acrobatics and high speed thrills despite cloudy skies that put performances at a lower altitude than planned.

Crowds reveled in stunt pilot Sean D. Tucker, who made alley oops and deep dives in his propeller biplane over the ocean at Jones Beach.

Tucker did dives and forward flips over the water. On his onboard radio, he called out to the crowd, identifying children by their swimsuits and thanking veterans.

“Remember this weekend we’re here to remember all the men and women who protected our freedom and gave their lives doing it,” Tucker said. “God bless America.”

The Air Force Thunderbirds offered a “low show” because of the cloud cover, said George Gorman, state parks deputy regional director for Long Island. But it didn’t matter to the crowd that watched the fighter jets flying in formation and passing over each other upside down.

“Every time I see them, I get a rush,” said Allan Lum, 63, of Queens, a self-described aviation fan. “As soon as you see them entering center stage, you can feel the anticipation and excitement. And then you hear the roar of thunder.”

But he had some advice for first-time visitors.

“First time, I would dispense with the cameras and take it [the air show] in,” Lum said. “A lot of times people try to get pictures and they don’t live the moment.”

The show was delayed because Kennedy Airport was operating with one runway out of service and flight patterns required an adjustment to the show schedule, said Jim Record, a pilot with the GEICO Skytypers performers. Organizers were working with air traffic controllers to not interrupt flights landing at Kennedy.

Gorman said the clouds may have kept some people away, as crowds both days were substantially less this year than last year when the weather was better. Sunday’s show attracted 121,000 people and Saturday’s drew 128,000, officials said.

But Record said Sunday’s clouds made for “a perfect flying day because it’s cool. The sun is muted a bit and it works well for the air show.”

This year marked the first performance of the Warrior Flight Team. Two pilots in L-39 Albatross jets passed each other at high speed using a World War I air combat dogfighting maneuver before looping skyward and spiraling upside down. The team’s Maryland-based Warrior Aviation Charity helps disabled veterans continue flying with a civilian license or work in the aviation industry.

Pat and Sal Corradengo of North Babylon said they have been going to the show for 10 years, but it’s taken on new meaning in recent years when their granddaughter started studying to become a pilot at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

“She’s been jumping out of planes for years,” Sal Corradengo, 79, said of his granddaughter.

Pat Corradengo, 65, said watching the daredevil stunts — particularly the Thunderbirds — is always her favorite part of the show, but her granddaughter’s aspirations add a little more to watching them this year.

“I just love the way they fly,” she said. “Hopefully she can do all that!”

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