Behind the Scenes: The 2017 New York Air Show…

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A lot of work and communication occurs in the last few days leading up to a weekend air show. At the Stewart International Airport in New Windsor NY, the Thursday and Friday before the early July, 2017 show was full of preparations and proclamations… here is some of what happened this year. A lot of last minute advertising occurs during the final week before the show. Very visible television and print stories feature performers’ insight about what and why they do what they do. Media Day, is it is sometimes called, allows reporters to gather interesting information about the show and its performers before the event, and then present it to the public. This has a few benefits, as it conveys sponsor’s brands and names to the public, it allows for explanations of the missions of each performer (especially if there is one besides entertainment), as well as to remind the readership/viewership that there’s an air show right around the corner – don’t miss it!

Some of Photorecon.net’s reporters got to interview a pair of Blue Angels, pilot Lt. Damon Kroes and Life Support specialist PR1 Yael Martinez. Getting to interview the performers “planeside” – that is – next to their aircraft adds to the excitement of the stories they tell. It sure adds dimension to the stories the video/still photographs used in the articles too. The Blue Angels support Navy and Marines recruitment efforts, and talking with these two team members offered a prime example of the high quality of the people in those Branches of service. Don’t forget, part of the team’s duties is to represent all of the members of the Navy and Marines too.

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Lt. Kroes flies Blue Angel 2, and one of his duties is to tutor the new flight leader of the Blue Angels for next year’s team. Since his two-year tour is offset from the “Boss” by a year, he’ll lend his expertise that he gained flying this year to the new team leader next year. That’s a lot of responsibility, training the new leader on the fine points of Blue Angel formation flying! The Lieutenant began his military career as a Marine Reservist, as an infantry scout in a LAV-25 Reconnaissance Battalion, and rose to a squad leader until being chosen to go to Officer Candidate School. He became an aviator some years after his military service began.

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PR1 Martinez works in the Life Support section of the team, among his duties is the maintenance of ejection seats and the F/A-18’s oxygen system. Those are some very important systems for aviators flying tactical jets…. Interestingly enough is the fact that the Blue Angel pilots do not use oxygen while performing, but need it during the high altitude travel between shows and their home base. He began working on helicopters, and will return to the West Coast to a helicopter unit after his Blue Angels duties are done at the end of this year. He grew up in Puerto Rico, but lived in New York City for a year, so the trip to New Windsor/Newburgh was sort of a homecoming. An interesting practice with the Blue Angels is that the enlisted maintenance crews choose their replacements, with little or no officer involvement. PR1 Martinez will help choose his replacement soon, if he hasn’t done so already.

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Making an uncommon East Coast appearance was the Air Force’s F-35A Lightning II jet, flown by Major Will Andreotta, based in Arizona’s Luke AFB. The F-35A would fly with a P-51 Mustang and an F-16 of the USAF’s Viper Demo Team during the show, as part of a trio of aircraft for the Heritage Flight presentation. Luke AFB is an Air Education and Training Command base that specializes in the new F-35, of which some 200 have already been delivered to U.S. armed forces. One thing that the Major said was that training for F-35 pilots is now “normalized”, and not in the initial stages as described in the past. A few other observations: the jet is all about “sensor fusion”, with purposely-designed helmets, on-board cameras and computer information sharing all rolled into one package, not “aftermarket” add-ons like new helmets for F-15/F-16/F-18 pilots received as their older aircraft got upgrades in the past. Today’s F-35 pilot wears a lightweight helmet that gives him/her a huge advantage in situational awareness, compared to older systems. As the pilot for Heritage Flight presentations, the main purpose is to “show the flag” and salute Air Force history – the USAF’s 70th Anniversary is this year!

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The New York Air National Guard figured in heavily with the media coverage before the show. MSgt. Sara Pastorello and SSgt. Julio Olivencia and the rest of the Public Affairs staff of the 105th Airlift Wing, through the New York Air Show media coordinator Chris Dirato, graciously allowed members of the press to have interview opportunities with the military performers already mentioned. The 105th AW had a large part to play during the air show too, presenting their C-17A Globemaster III flight demonstration to the crowd.

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This is the first Air National Guard demonstration team flying the C-17, and we heard how the process of planning and training for the routine took place over the past few years from pilot Lt. Col. Mark Cotton. The 105th AW deploys worldwide to support very diverse missions for the U.S. Military Branches, from performing medical evacuation flights to supply runs to New Zealand in support of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic program, according to TSgt. Tony Galioto. The NYANG unit takes part in the air show not necessarily for recruitment purposes, but to “show the flag”, to thank the local population and employers for supporting their mission as well as to represent the Air National Guard and US Air Force’s capabilities.

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While interviews occurred on both Thursday and Friday, a dry run through the full air show flying presentation was conducted on Friday. No spectator on-airport parking was allowed, so many spectators pulled off on side streets and parking lots to watch the various performers fly their routines. This sometime complicated the efforts of law enforcement and public safety personnel to keep roads passable, but the practice show went off without a hitch. Again, news reporters had the chance to get images of the performers and aircraft before the large crowds took many of the good vantage points during the weekend.

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Armed with this and more air show information, various news outlets published stories on TV, radio, print media, and electronic media (now an important outlet too!) after Thursday’s and Friday’s presentations. Another pre-air show event, this one open to the public, was the Friday evening party at the nearby Angry Orchard cider brewery. Performers, air show and local officials, show enthusiasts, and neighbors all joined in at the rustic-looking facility that doubles as a high-tech brewery and function hall. With foot-stompin’ country music in the background, and a quartet of whole roasted hogs supplied by Handsome Devil BBQ allowing for an awesome pulled pork and baked bean dinner, Angry Orchard served up “flights” (three small samplers that sit in a hand-held paddle/tray) of their savory products. Conversations were many, some between old friends and others between new acquaintances. Enthusiasm ran high, especially as the severe afternoon thunderstorms on Friday cleared away, and forecast weather looked towards a great flying weekend for the show.

This is just part of what goes on behind the scenes of the New York Air Show, we haven’t even covered things like the physical set up and FAA requirements of the show, as well as how the airport operates while this set up (and tear down after the show) activity occurs. Maybe next year, we’ll get to take a look at that…. For an in-depth view of the show itself, look for a report here at Photorecon.net in a few weeks too!!

Again, special thanks go to New York Air Show Media Director Chris Dirato, the Blue Angels, F-35 Demo Team, and the New York Air National Guard, especially MSgt. Sara Pastorello and SSgt. Julio Olivencia from Public Affairs.

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Ken Kula

Assignment and Content Editor, writer and photographer A New Englander all of my life, I've lived in New Hampshire since 1981. My passion for all things aviation began at a very early age, and I coupled this with my interest of photography during college in the late 1970s. I spent 32 years in the air traffic control industry, and concurrently, enjoyed my aviation photography and writing adventures, which continue today. I've been quite fortunate to have been mentored by some generous and gifted individuals. I enjoy contributing to this great site, and working with some very knowledgeable and equally passionate aviation followers.

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