Wings Over Batavia 2023

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Story and photos by Shawn Byers

Compelling. That was the word I kept saying as I read up on this airshow at the Genesee County Airport in Batavia, New York. For the first time since 1999, an airshow would be hosted here. However, it would not be an ordinary one, by design. The organizers rethought the format and designed an evening into the night airshow featuring the majority of the well-known General Aviation performers along with some Warbird and Military performances.

The timing of the show was Labor Day Weekend. At the time, I believed I was going to be two states away in Cleveland. I did send the link to my nephews in the local area and encouraged them to go. As Labor Day got closer and with the later start time in Batavia, I knew it was possible to hit both shows and that is exactly what I did. Someone else appeared at both shows as well but he was flying. More on that later. I slept in Cleveland and launched early on the three-hour drive to Western New York. Genesee County was another hour away after linking up with my nephews. We attended the Sunday show.

Parking was across the street on property that must belong to one of the businesses. The gates opened at 2pm. Aircraft static displays were the performers parked on the hot ramp fenced off in front of the crowd line. I picked out my frontage near the A-10 Thunderbolt II Demonstration Team assuming it would be a nice backdrop during the fireworks show later. Unbeknownst to me, all aircraft would disappear from sight before the end of the night.

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Placing myself there was fortuitous. Earlier in the afternoon, I said hello to Major Lindsay “Mad” Johnson while she was walking by. A short time later, The Team asked me to take a group photo of them with Rob Holland and his MXS-RH. I hopped the fence and climbed a ladder they provided. That was a lot of fun and quite an honor.

Genesee County Airport is a small General Aviation facility located just north of Interstate 90, Exit 48. It has a single Runway 10/28 at 5,500 feet and 100 feet wide and the ramp is on the south side. We were blessed with a lot of sunshine, breezy conditions and occasionally, inopportune dark clouds.

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Kevin Coleman was the first to fly in his Red Bull Extra 300SHP. He circled the American Flag drop by Red Bull Skydiver, Luke Aikens. I still do not know where he dropped from.
David Martin performed aerobatics in his stock Beech Baron twin.

Bill Stein performed his first routine in his color changing, Edge 540.

Matt Younkin performed the first routine in his Twin Beech 18. He would return later for his night routine.

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Rob Holland performed his first routine in his MXS-RH. He would also perform a three-ship routine later with Coleman and Stein.

Lou Horschel and Ariel Luedi launched in their P-51s “Mad Max” and “Little Witch” to a hold point.

Jim Peitz put his stock Beech Bonanza through an aerobatic routine.

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Lou and Ariel returned for their Twin Mustangs routine.

The A-10 Thunderbolt II Demonstration launched for a Heritage Flight and solo display. Jim Beasley flew P-51 “Bald Eagle” from his home near Philadelphia and Captain Sam “RaZZ” Larson flew the F-22 from Cleveland where I saw his full performance the day before. Much appreciation to “RaZZ” for pulling double duty.

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The sky was getting orangey at this point. I was changing camera settings for the lighting differences to the left and the right.

Rob Holland, Bill Stein and Kevin Coleman took off again for a three-ship routine.

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Michael Goulian performed in his Extra 330SC.

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Lee Lauderback performed a solo routine in his P-51 Mustang, “Crazy Horse” as the sun began to set on the horizon.

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A Team called “Airythmia” appeared with their lighted Paramotors. It was a neat light and smoke show but it was too breezy to get airborne Sunday night. I saw a photo elsewhere from the previous night and it looked spectacular.

Red Bull Skydiver, Luke Aikens appeared again from a mystery plane and had a flare on his boot. Now that it is nighttime, I wondered if I could get any images of what was happening. A little luck wouldn’t hurt. This is a good time to mention that Airshow Announcer Ric Peterson encouraged the crowd to show their appreciation for the night performers by using the flashlights on their cell phones. The festive feel of the crowd was so fun.

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Matt Younkin flew his night routine themed to Dracula music.

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Nathan Hammond finished the flying in his Super Chipmunk. This is the brightest night performer I have experienced and his routine was throwing off so many pyrotechnics that it is almost easy to get some good photographs. I even think some of the fireworks came from the ground, but I could be mistaken as that seems inherently dangerous to the aircraft.
Without missing a beat, after Hammond vacated the airspace, a fireworks show kicked off. After the show was over and we filed out of the airport, Hammond was still airborne waiting for the runway to be cleared for his landing.

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This show was a lot of fun. I worked hard trying to adjust settings to capture the changing light conditions but I am happy with the resulting photos even though I blew a lot of them finding out what works. I really didn’t know what I had until opening the files on a computer. In 2024, the show returns in the same timeframe and will feature the F-16 Viper Demonstration Team.

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