‘A Rush of Adrenaline’: Aerobatic Pilots Prepare for Jones Beach Air Show

air show
Long Islander David Windmiller will perform in the 18th annual Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach this year.

Anticipation for the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach is building, especially among pilots performing aerobatics at the Memorial Day weekend event.

Solo aerobatic pilots David Windmiller, Michael Goulian, and Jessy Panzer will each have their own show-stopping routines in the air to “wow” the crowd of beachgoers. They have all competed professionally – and placed – in aerobatic aircraft flying championships and now entertain audiences nationwide with their soaring aviation skills.

“In the air show industry, there are a few marquee events, and Jones Beach is one of them,” Goulian, who hails from Cape Cod, M.A., says. “When you put it on your calendar, you know it’s going to be one of the highlights of the year.”

Mike Goulian

Aerobatic pilots fly some of the highest-performing planes there are – “almost like a Formula 1 car with wings,” Goulian says – that allow for some exciting air tricks. Pilots need to keep their bodies in tip-top shape to carry out these daring flight routines.

To prepare each year, Windmiller, a Melville resident, flies three to four flights per day for six weeks leading up to the event, he says. Although he’s flown in every single air show at Jones Beach for 18 years, he showcases a new performance each time.

“We do tumbles and flips and really neat stuff that larger jets cannot do,” Windmiller says. “Each year we learn more and more about it, so this year I have new maneuvers that I just discovered in the last week or two of practicing. I change it up every year to keep it exciting.

“When you pull up at the air show and go to dive up for an aerobic box, whereas you normally see a few dots, the beach is covered with people for miles and miles, and you see boats trying to get into the bay by the thousands. It’s a really awesome sight,” he added.

In 2000, Windmiller finished in fourth place in the freestyle competition at the World World Aerobatic Championships in France. 

Panzer is a certified air racer who qualified in 2004 to compete in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.

Jessy Panzer
Jessy Panzer

Goulian was the youngest competitor to win the United States Unlimited Aerobatic Championship at the age of 27. He also competed in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.

Though this will be just his second air show performance at Jones Beach, Goulian says it’s something special for the performers as much as it is for the audience.

“It’s a rush of adrenaline because you take off from the airport in Farmingdale, where there’s normal air traffic, and then you enter the airspace around the show, and you see the thousands of people on the beach,” he says. “And especially because you’re doing it on Memorial Day with people who were in the armed forces and who have done so much for our country. It’s a pretty emotional day for the people watching and flying, too.”

In addition to the aerobatic flyers, the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach will feature the return of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels,  the United States Army Golden Knights Parachute Team, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy F-35C Tac Demonstration Team, the world-famous Skytypers, the American Air Power Museum Warbirds, and the Farmingdale State College Flying Rams.

The show is May 28 and 29 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is free, except for the $10 parking fee per car to visit Jones Beach.

For more information, visit bethpageairshow.com.

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