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Blue Angels Bethpage Air Show performance cut short by fog

The Breitling Jet Team performs at the Bethpage

The Breitling Jet Team performs at the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach in Wantagh on Sunday, May 29, 2016. Credit: Ed Betz

Thick fog forced the Navy’s Blue Angels to give an abbreviated performance Sunday at the close of the 13th annual Bethpage Air Show.

The precision fighter pilots, who dazzled the crowd of 192,000 on hand Saturday, started their Sunday performance about 2 p.m. But while the signature blue fighter jets could be heard in the fog, they could only sporadically be seen and event officials stopped the show midway through the performance.

It was an abrupt end to the second and last day of the popular air show, which — until fog rolled in off the Atlantic — had been a repeat performance of Saturday’s flawless event, this time before an even larger crowd.

Rob Reider, an air show announcer, said the Blue Angels could see “straight down to the ground.” However, “we can’t see them,” he told the crowd, which disbursed quickly after that.

More than 214,000 people packed Jones Beach Sunday to watch aircraft of all sorts whiz overhead, and also to pay tribute to a vintage airplane pilot killed a day before his scheduled performance at the air show.

Teammates of Bill Gordon, 56, who was killed Friday when his P-47 Thunderbolt crashed into the Hudson River, paid tribute to their fallen colleague Sunday morning with a “missing three” formation flight. Members of the Warbirds, a vintage airplane group, flew above the crowd about 10:30 a.m.

Gordon, of Key West, Florida, and a member of the Warbirds, died when his World War II-era fighter crashed into the Hudson during a promotional flight for the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale.

Gordon was to fly in the air show both days with the other Warbirds. The group chose not to fly Saturday but paid tribute to Gordon on Sunday, and the air show’s announcers asked the large crowd to remember the pilot with a moment of silence. Among those in the Sunday tribute was the pilot of another vintage plane flying near Gordon when his aircraft crashed.

The air show, along with Friday’s practice show, drew about 352,000 people, a record for attendance over the three-day period, officials said. By 11:30 a.m., New York state parks officials had closed off Jones Beach to more visitors.

Those lucky enough to arrive in time were treated to aircraft that ran the gamut from single-engine models representing the nearby Farmingdale State College aviation program to aircraft acrobats, vintage plane enthusiasts and international performers, from the Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds to the Breitling Jet Team — a civilian aerobatic team based in Dijon, France. And in keeping with the patriotic flavor of the weekend, the U.S. Navy’s newly minted F-35 stealth fighter jet gave the crowd a flyby.

Tom McArthur, 63, of Sayville, attended the air show Sunday for his ninth year. A veteran of Operation Desert Storm who spent 10 years in the Marine Corps, McArthur said he enjoys seeing other veterans each year at the event.

“All the veterans, everybody hanging out being together. It’s a brotherhood,” he said. “It’s what we do and it’s for life.”

James McGrath, 9, of Islip got an up-close glimpse of one of the Golden Knight parachuters when the daredevil landed right in front of him.

“We were just walking and I was trying to see where he was and my mom said, ‘Look!’ And there he was,” James said. “He was barely on the ground — his feet touched — and the dude had his chute off.”

Wayne Boggs, who supervises the air controllers for the show, said of the 26 shows he’ll work this year, the Jones Beach air show is his favorite.

“It’s a good venue for a show — over water,” said Boggs, 69, of Tampa, Florida. “In the air show environment, it doesn’t get any better.”

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