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Thunderbirds to fly in tribute to fallen soldier at Bethpage Air Show

The 14th annual Bethpage Air Show at Jones

The 14th annual Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach will take place Memorial Day weekend, Saturday, May 27, and Sunday, May 28, 2017. The show will feature "America's Ambassadors in Blue," the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force

A tribute to the late Army Sgt. Anthony L. Mangano of Greenlawn, killed in action while deployed in Afghanistan, has been added to the lineup for the Memorial Day weekend Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach.

Levittown’s Maj. Kevin Walsh will be a featured flier and other Long Island participants will be David Windmiller of Melville, who will perform acrobatics with his private plane, and the Farmingdale State College Flying Rams. The Rams feature seven of its 22 college-owned aircraft in a flyby piloted by their top professional performers, organizers said in a news release Thursday.

Walsh flies with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, who will headline the 14th annual air show scheduled for May 27-28 at Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh. He is director of operations for the Thunderbirds and the Air Force’s Air Demonstration Squadron and is Thunderbird No. 7.

During the free show, which starts at noon and ends at 5 p.m. on both days, the Thunderbirds will honor Mangano, who was killed in 2008, by placing his name on Thunderbird Jet No. 1 for a tribute performance.

“We are very excited to welcome back home Major Kevin Walsh — a true hometown hero — to Long Island,” George Gorman, deputy regional director of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said in the release.

Gorman noted that while Walsh was a student at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington he played ice hockey, lacrosse and ran cross country before joining the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“He is a gifted competitor and an ardent team player who today, helps protect our nation’s freedoms,” Gorman said of Walsh. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome him to our show.”

The Thunderbirds, called “America’s Ambassadors in Blue,” was founded in 1953 to demonstrate the skills of airmen and the capabilities of modern aircraft. For the show, its pilots perform about 40 maneuvers showcasing formation flying and solo routines.

“My main goal is precision — every point being perfectly nailed,” Windmiller, 52, said. “There’ll be a lot of speed and a lot of action. There’ll be a lot of rolling, tumbling and flipping to keep people on the edge of their seats.”

Other performers will include the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team, pilot Sean Tucker performing in his custom-built Oracle Challenger II biplane, aerobatic pilot Matt Chapman, Lt. Col. John Klatt flying the Jack Links’ Screamin’ Sasquatch Jet Waco, the Geico Skytypers and their flight squadron of six vintage World War II aircraft, and the American Airpower Museum Warbirds.

The air show is sponsored by Newsday, PSEG Long Island, Connoisseur Media Long Island, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, WABC-TV/7, the New York Islanders, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and Natural Heritage Trust.

A record-breaking 453,000 people attended the event last year, according to the release.

For more information on the show, visit bethpageairshow.com, facebook.com/BethpageAirShow, or contact the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation at 631-321-3510.

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