Jones Beach State Park – Bethpage Air Show 2022

Story by Daniel O. Myers, photos by Kevin Burke and Daniel O. Myers

For sixteen years, the Jones Beach, NY Bethpage Air Show has dared the elements. This year, heavy dense fog rolled in on the beach, canceling the Friday practise show. Conditions for Saturday were not much better. After some minimal flying in the morning, sever thunderstorms and heavy rains postponed the remainder of the show, sending 41,000 visitors scurrying to their parked vehicles. Finally on Sunday, weather conditions were ideal for the returning 181,000 beach-goers.

As usual, the U.S. Army Golden Knights flag-jump opened the show. Following closely behind was a parade of a dozen light-civil aircraft, flown by students from nearby Farmingdale State College of Aviation and then warbirds from the American Airpower Museum based at Republic airport.

Traditionally, the show has always spotlighted the 106th Air National Guard Rescue Wing from Gabreski, NY and the U.S. Coast Guard with Search and Rescue demonstrations. This year, a 106th HC-130J KING flew by while aerial refueling two of their HH-60’s JOLLY. The Coast Guard deployed a swimmer, simulating a water rescue. Again this year, these brave men and women exhibited to the audience how they risk their lives so that “others may live.”

Another long standing tradition for the Jones Beach show were the “GEICO Skytypers,” based at nearby Republic Airport. Flying their six WWII era North American SNJ-2’s, along with their sky-typing missions, the GEICO team would normally perform at fifteen east coast air shows annually. Unfortunately, the team was hit by fatal accidents in 2018 and 2021, lost their GEICO sponsorship and was dis-banned following the 2021 season. They then re-formed as a five-ship act, under the name “Skytypers Airshow Team.” 2022 marked the last time the Farmingdale, NY squadron would perform at Jones Beach and was only one of two airshows they flew in 2022.

The air cracked with the sound of jet noise when the USAF F-22 Raptor and then USN F-35C Lightning II took control of the skies over Jones Beach. F-22 Demonstration Team Pilot, Major Joshua “Cabo” Gunderson, showcased the unmatched maneuverability of the Air Force’s 5th generation air-dominance stealth fighter. Flying for the 1st Fighter Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, VA, “Cabo” has been flying for the USAF since 2014. He has more than 1700 combined hours in the F-15C Eagle and F-22 Raptor.

The USN was next to show off their new 5th generation stealth fighter. The F-35C is the world’s only long-range stealth strike-fighter designed explicitly for Navy carrier operations. The two-ship display was flown by lead demo pilot, LTCR Daniel “Jiggle” Slater along with LCDR Joe “811” Calvi. Slater and Calvi are both former F/A-18E Super Hornet pilots and current F-35C instructors from VFA-125 “Rough Raiders.”

Lead pilot Slater first demonstrated the unique capabilities of the Lockheed Martin Lightning II while Calvi loitered behind the crowd before later joining in. The F-35C can reach supersonic speeds of 1.6 Mach (approx. 1,200 mph). While keeping the jets sub-sonic, “Jiggle” and “811” exhibited some of that capability with numerous opposing high-speed afterburner passes.

Also, throughout the day, award winning aerobatic pilots David Windmiller, Jessy Panzer and Mike Goulian thrilled the crowd with exhilarating acts. With clear blue skies, the USN Blue Angels closed out the show. In tight formation, the team flew exacting maneuvers in their F/A-18E Super Hornets.

The Bethpage Jones Beach air show takes place each year on Memorial Day weekend. The USAF Thunderbirds are schedule to headline in 2023.

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