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Long Island

Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach rehearsals take off

On Friday, May 26, 2017, pilots gathered to practice for the 2017 Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach in Wantagh. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend the free show, headlined by the Air Force Thunderbirds. The show runs from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger)

Sunny skies at Friday’s rehearsal for the Bethpage Air Show freed stunt pilots from having to throttle back.

If the weather continues to cooperate Saturday and Sunday, spectators at Jones Beach are in for some dazzling aerial artistry.

So far, the forecast only calls for a small chance of rain during the 14th annual show, which runs from noon to 5 p.m. both days.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend the free show, headlined by the Air Force Thunderbirds, who fly their F-16 Fighting Falcons at supersonic speed.

This year’s pilot team includes Levittown native Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh in his first performance at the beach where he summered as a child.

Thunderbirds jet No. 1 will bear the name of Army Sgt. Anthony L. Mangano, 36, of Greenlawn, who was killed in a 2008 ambush in Afghanistan.

“Part of what we do this weekend is honor our veterans and our fallen heroes. ... The military is the backbone of our country,” said George Gorman, Long Island deputy regional director for state parks.

Air show security, which has steadily increased over the years, was further strengthened after the suicide bombing in Manchester, England, earlier this week. Extra state troopers and park police were assigned to the event, along with additional private security guards to screen backpacks and picnic baskets.

Some people might have to clear security twice because there are new checkpoints at the park’s East and West Bathhouses, officials said. Numerous surveillance cameras have been installed not just in the park, but on the parkways as well.

Spectators are advised to arrive early, because parking lots could fill by 11 a.m.

Shortly after the Farmingdale State College Aviation team starts the show by flying an oval around the beach, the Army Golden Knights parachute team will “jump the flag,” landing a parachutist with the American flag attached to his back on an “X” on the beach while the national anthem is played.

Other performers then will take to the skies, including the GEICO Skytypers, American Airpower Museum Warbirds and acclaimed stunt pilots.

Saturday and Sunday should be partly sunny, with highs of about 67 degrees, though there is a 20 percent chance of showers Saturday after 1 p.m., according to the National Weather Service in Upton.

On hand for Friday’s rehearsal, Jessica and Hank Deegan of Mineola were delighted by the soaring fighter jets.

Said Jessica Deegan, 40: “They go by and then there’s a pause before you hear the sonic boom.”

BETHPAGE AIR SHOW

The 14th annual Jones Beach show will be from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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