Rob Reider always loved airplanes. He just never thought he'd be making a living talking about them.
More than three decades after his aeronautical interest and broadcast career intersected, the 64-year-old Cincinnati resident is one of two full-time professional air show announcers working in the country.
So when hundreds of thousands of spectators attend the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach Sunday -- following Saturday's rainout -- they will benefit from Reider's rare combination of on-air radio experience and knowledge of military and aerobatic aircraft.
Reider says he typically works the microphone at 22 air shows a year, but it's down by half this year because the federal sequestration budget cuts grounded the Air Force and Navy precision flying teams.
Reider has been the voice of the state park air show for the last nine of the 10 years it has been held. His booming voice describes the action in the air and provides background on planes and performers. He then interviews pilots after they land, and he fills voids created by weather or mechanical delays and recites commercials.
"He was recommended to us as one of the best in the world," said George Gorman Jr., regional director of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. "He is extremely knowledgeable."
Reider, who said he "always loved aviation," also learned to fly, receiving his pilot's license in 1982.
He got into his unusual line of work because he was working as a broadcaster in Ohio in 1978 when his show did a remote production at a Dayton air show. "I started volunteering there after that and eventually wound up as a paid announcer," he said. "By 2006, I was going full time at it."
Reider said he works closely with the show's "air boss" or flight controller, Wayne Boggs, who manages the movements of the aircraft in and out of the performing area, "so I know what's coming and how much time I have if I have to get commercials in."
His biggest routine challenge is dealing with delays. "If there's a hole in the schedule because of rain or something, it's my job to fill it and keep things going so the audience knows what's going on."
The biggest non-routine challenge is when there's an accident. "That's the worst case," he said. "In 2007, I announced at four shows where there were fatalities."
In those instances, he's learned to not reveal his emotions over the public address system and "go into crowd-control mode" to keep the audience calm. Even after announcing hundreds of shows, Reider said he's never bored. "I'm just enough of a kid that it is never routine."