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'Air Boss' of Bethpage Air Show flies under radar

Air show

Air show "air boss" Wayne Boggs directs aircraft during the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach in Wantagh on Sunday. Boggs, 65, the older brother of Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, is a retired Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controller. (May 27, 2012) Credit: Steve Pfost

Few of the 186,000 spectators Sunday at the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach took notice of Wayne Boggs standing on a scaffold set up on the boardwalk.

But if not for coordination by the husky man wearing a yellow T-shirt emblazoned "Air Boss," there would have been no flyovers by the 14 individual and group performers. Since the air show began at the state park nine years ago, the retired Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controller has helped put the event together and then serve as ringmaster on performance day.

Boggs, 65, who spent 30 years with the FAA and is the older brother of Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, started a Tampa, Fla.-based company in 1990 to provide air boss services to air shows around the country -- 26 this year.

"I will choreograph the show, design the schedule and control the event," he said. Even with a long-standing and well-planned show like Jones Beach, he said, his planning and paperwork started five months out.

Boggs started his day promptly at 7 a.m. with a briefing on the weather and procedures for pilots and support personnel at the Melville Marriott Long Island. "Keep your game face on and stay focused," he told them. "No one needs to push."

Capt. Peter Liggieri, a Garden City native who flies an Air Force F-22 Raptor, said, "Wayne is probably the premier professional in the air-show air boss business. He's absolutely amazing in terms of coordination."

Boggs drove to the beach and was soon on the radio with pilots discussing the overcast skies and the light rain that fell.

"The ceiling isn't bad, but there is no horizon whatsoever over the water," he told one flier. But the skies cleared by 9 a.m., allowing the show to proceed on schedule.

Before each segment of the show, Boggs told the pilots: "The air space is yours." Then he fed details to the announcer and offered tips to "mini boss" apprentice Devan Norris, such as, "You want to keep an eye on them all the way around to make sure no one cuts anybody off."

Boggs, who keeps his watch on the table in front of him to help keep the show on schedule, stood for the entire five hours to make sure he had everything moving in the air in sight. When he turned the airspace over to the Navy's Blue Angels at 2 p.m., he was done for the day.

He summed up the event with his mantra for a mishap-free show: "No hits, no runs, no errors. And I'm one happy individual."

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