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Thunderbirds to fly at Jones Beach in May

The United States Air Force Thunderbirds during the

The United States Air Force Thunderbirds during the Bethpage Federal Credit Union New York Air Show at Jones Beach State Park. (May 23, 2009) Credit: Lorina Capitulo

Despite extensive damage from superstorm Sandy, Jones Beach State Park will host its 10th annual Memorial Day air show next year.

The event will be headlined by the Thunderbirds precision-flying team, the Air Force confirmed Tuesday.

The park -- and especially the boardwalk at the Central Mall that has always been the center of the aerial event -- was so heavily damaged by the storm that initially there was concern that the park might not open at all next summer.

But after state parks Commissioner Rose Harvey toured the facility with local staff the week after the storm, they determined the park would be open for the season.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had written to the Air Force requesting that the Thunderbirds appear as planned despite the storm damage, said Tuesday that parks officials had confirmed that repairs under way at the Central Mall and adjacent boardwalk will be completed in time. State officials could not be reached for comment.

Schumer also wrote to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley to make sure the team would not skip Jones Beach next May as it did in 2011 when it was sent overseas.

He said that because of Sandy, "residents of the New York Metropolitan and Long Island areas will appreciate and enjoy the Air Show more than ever. With over 350,000 people expected to attend, many of which have been affected by Hurricane Sandy, this would be a wonderful opportunity to perform for thousands of families whose spirits were left devastated by the devastation of the storm."

From 2004 through 2010, the Thunderbirds and the Navy's Blue Angels have alternated as headliners. In 2011 the Thunderbirds appeared in Turkey and Jones Beach attendance dropped dramatically.

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