Blue Angel pilots arrived at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale to prep for next summer's Bethpage Air Show. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports.  Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

Brian O’Donnell watched with amazement as his son Connor, a pilot with the U.S. Navy's vaunted Blue Angels, landed an F/A-18 Super Hornet on Tuesday at East Farmingdale's Republic Airport.

Growing up in Maine, Connor was always a risk taker, his father said. But before Tuesday, Brian O’Donnell had never seen his son fly and still can't quite believe it.

“I was a bit surprised to see him crawl out of the cockpit," said Brian O'Donnell, of New Haven, Connecticut. "This was sort of the culmination of his dream that started in Annapolis 13 years ago."

The proud dad joined state parks and air show officials, along with other Blue Angels and support staff, at the airport Tuesday for a planning session before next Memorial Day weekend's Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach.

Long Island is one of 32-show site visits by the Blue Angels before air shows next year, officials said.

The name "Lt. Connor O'Donnell" painted in gold letters on the side of a Blue Angels fighter jet, gleaming as it did Tuesday when the sun peeked through the clouds, was "an exclamation point to how hard he worked,” Brian O'Donnell said.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Vaught co-piloted the jet with the younger O'Donnell as it roared and soared above the airport.

“A lot of work goes into this air show. We're a very small part of it and we're honored to be part of this year's show,” Vaught said.

The site plan meeting Tuesday allowed organizers to "start the groundwork" for the air show, he said.

"We're going to show up in May, with about 65 to 85 of the best sailors and Marines this country has to offer. We require a lot of logistics," Vaught said. "So we're going to look at hotels, we're going to look at the show site, probably the airfield and just kind of make sure everything's set for us.”

It's Vaught’s second year with the Blue Angels and Connor O’Donnell’s first. O'Donnell was selected for the Blue Angels last July.

He hugged his dad on the tarmac after climbing out of the Super Hornet. Before Tuesday, his dad had seen him only at deployments, such as one out of San Diego on the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier.

“I’m on the road 300 days a year, so I appreciate any opportunity to connect with friends and family,” Connor O’Donnell said. “It was cool to share with him.”

The Blue Angels will return for two shows after thunderstorms at the last Jones Beach show limited them to one.

“The planning for the following year’s show starts during the current air show and we look for any issues that arose or changes needed and we’re going through them now,” said George Gorman, state parks regional director for Long Island.

Gorman said air show officials are still in negotiations to book other performers, including the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team. Air show representatives also will attend next week's International Council of Air Shows convention in Las Vegas in pursuit of other performers.

Massapequa motel closed … Riverhead charter school … Boxing bus driver  Credit: Newsday

Beauvais sentencing ... LI home prices ... Lindsay Lohan's new movie ... What's up on LI

Massapequa motel closed … Riverhead charter school … Boxing bus driver  Credit: Newsday

Beauvais sentencing ... LI home prices ... Lindsay Lohan's new movie ... What's up on LI

Latest Videos

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months