A Farmingdale State College air pilot graduate has been dreaming of flying in the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach since she was a kid. This Memorial Day weekend, her dream will come true.
Alexa Wahl, 23, of Deer Park, graduated from the local SUNY school’s aviation program in December 2021. She knew from a young age that she wanted to become a pilot, inspired by watching the air show from the beach or boat every year since she was about 7 years old, she said.
“My dad had actually found out about it in the newspaper, and he thought it would be a fun thing to do with the family over the weekend,” Wahl recalled. “We’d tell friends and family to come down and do it. It’s a yearly thing for us.
“I’m excited that now I’m able to fly in the show, have them see me in the show, and then later be able to join them to watch the rest of it,” she added.
Wahl earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical science – professional pilot from Farmingdale State. She chose to study at Farmingdale because “it was a school close to home that made the goal of flying in [the air show] attainable.”
Wahl left the program with private and commercial pilot certificates, instrument rating, and certified flight instructor (CFI). Post-graduation, she is working as a flight instructor at the school and an ambassador for Republic Airways.
The Farmingdale State College Flying Rams pilot graduates have been opening up the show for eight years, and five of them will fly together in single-engine aircrafts to kick off the show again this year. Dr. Michael Canders, Farmingdale State College’s Aviation Center Director, will narrate the fly-by in the audio portion of the show and introduce each pilot.
Canders says that flying in the air show gives recent pilot graduates the opportunity to network with the renowned aircraft professionals who participate in the air show, as well as show the public how pilots begin their careers.
“Basically we are demonstrating where all of these air show pilots get their start with a very simple fly-by – they just fly along the beach into the show area, a very basic, fundamental maneuver,” he explained. “That basic foundation with a single engine is what all the other pilots start with and build upon.
“The recent graduates are selected because they have demonstrated outstanding flying and decision making abilities. We look forward to it every year,” he added.
Wahl began rehearsing with her colleagues in the beginning of May, she said. Though it’s a bit nerve wracking, Wahl says she is mostly excited for her big dream-come-true in the sky.
“I’d like to say thank you to Dr. Canders for providing me this opportunity to live out one of my dreams,” she said. “It’s definitely a full-circle moment. Hard work truly does pay off.”
In addition to the Farmingdale State College Flying Rams, the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach will feature the return of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, Long Islander David Windmiller, Jessy Panzer, Mike Goulian, 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, and the American Air Power Museum Warbirds.
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.