David Windmiller grabbed the control wheel of his single-engine airplane as the horizon spun over the Atlantic Ocean this week — but for this daredevil pilot, it’s all just fun and games.
The Melville resident is one of the few local aerobatic experts — the other being the Geico Skytypers — performing in the 16th annual Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach this weekend. For him, the wild ride featuring flips and loops was just a practice one — and a mild one at that, since he had this reporter in the cockpit.
His signature move? Call it The Windmiller.
“I’m going to open with a tumble I’ve been working on for eight years that really no one else can do,” he said while flying his high-performance Zivko Edge 540 about 2,500 feet over Robert Moses State Park on Fire Island, the practice area for the air show. “It’s basically a forward somersault and the airplane continuously tumbles. I can get it to go as many as seven times rotating at a very high rate.”
Windmiller’s flown in all but one of the Jones Beach air shows, which features a cast of nationally touring flight groups. This year’s headliners are the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, a squadron of F-16 Fighting Falcons.
He’s also performed in other air shows in the Northeast and competed professionally. He was selected as a “Top 5 in the USA for the Unlimited Team” when Windmiller represented the U.S. in the World Aerobatic Championship in France in 1999.
Having started flying at age 14, his need for speed blossomed early on. At one point he also raced speedboats.
When he’s not flipping, looping, and tumbling planes with enough G-forces to kill someone whose body is unaccustomed to the phenomenon, the married father of five is a realtor, flight school teacher, and helicopter pilot for TV and movie productions.
While most days he’s flying the friendly skies without issue, he once made local headlines when the plane he was piloting had engine failure and he had to make an emergency landing on Route 231 in Babylon.
Of course, this weekend, all the dramatic maneuvers are part of the show.