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New York City Air Show

It’s been 15 years since Coney Island’s last air show but 2015 won’t be the year for a long-awaited comeback after all. ATZ has learned the New York Air Show that was planned for Coney Island on August 29 and 30 is being moved 60 miles north of New York City, to Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, NY! On Monday, ACC Aerial Events wrote on the forum at Fence Check, an aerial photography site: “In case you have not heard the Brooklyn show has moved to Stewart IAP in Newburgh, NY.”

Air Combat Command Aerial Events is responsible for scheduling the public display of the USAF F-22A Raptor Demo and manages the USAF Heritage Flight program, both of which are scheduled to appear in the show. Kathy White, Chief of Civic Outreach Division of ACC Public Affairs replied to ATZ’s query for confirmation with a note that the show was indeed moved to Stewart International Airport.

The New York Air Show, whose logo incorporates images of the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel, and was set for Coney Island’s MCU Park, has not announced the change of venue, nor has it updated its website or Facebook page. ATZ did not receive a reply to a request for comment. The next question is will “The New York City Air Show in Coney Island” on the Blue Angels schedule for August 20-21, 2016″ be in Brooklyn or Newburgh?

In 2010, another producer’s Coney Island Air Show planned for late August and featuring the USAF Thunderbirds could not get all of the necessary permits–a complicated situation by all accounts– and was cancelled. The high cost of police security for the event was also rumored to be a factor. The Thunderbirds finally removed “Brooklyn, NY” from their schedule and Air Force Week NYC went on without a Coney Island Air Show.

Coney Island air show

During the 1980s and 90s, Astroland sponsored air shows featuring Air Force, Navy and Army flyers and parachute teams. The last air show in Coney Island was in 2000.

According to the USAF Thunderbirds fact sheet, the largest crowd in USAF Thunderbirds history –2.25 million– was on July 4, 1987 at their Coney Island air show. Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Astroland sponsored not only the USAF Thunderbirds but also the US Army’s Golden Knights parachute team as well as the Navy’s Blue Angels in 2000, which was the last year that Coney had an air show. The walls of Astroland’s office were emblazoned with dramatic news photos of these annual events.

Fourth of July air shows and fireworks have been a Coney tradition since the 1940s. In 1957, New York City’s delegation to the House of Representatives lobbied the Secretary of Defense for a national air show in Coney Island that would demonstrate America’s “airpower for peace.” The May event grew into Armed Forces Week with the sponsorship of the US Air Force Recruiting Services, the City of New York and the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce.

USAF Thunderbirds at Coney Island

The largest crowd in USAF Thunderbirds history was on July 4, 1987 at Coney Island where 2.25 million people watched as the Thunderbirds performed. Photo via USAF Thunderbirds

Related posts on ATZ…

May 11, 2015: Coney Island Fireworks 2015: Every Friday Plus 8 Saturdays

April 30, 2015: Thor Equities Recruits Jeffrey Deitch, Dan Biederman & Smorgasburg to Dress Up Vacant Coney Lot

November 18, 2014: ATZ’s Guide to Coney Island’s Honorary Walks and Places

September 13, 2013: Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round

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Coney Island air show

During the 1980s and 90s, Astroland sponsored air shows featuring Air Force, Navy and Army flyers and parachute teams. The last air show in Coney Island was in 2000.

June 1, 2015: The Air Show was moved from Coney Island to Newburgh, NY! Scroll down for update.

City officials have just signed off on an air show that will bring teams of flyers and parachutists to Coney Island this summer, according to a report by Jeanine Ramirez of NY1. The show will cost more than $500,000, but sponsors have agreed to cover all expenses. The event is scheduled for August 29 and 30.

“So much fun! I’m so happy they’re bringing it back! So exciting!” Tina Georgoulakos of Paul’s Daughter told ATZ. Among the iconic photos on display in her boardwalk eatery is one of a parachutist landing on the beach in front of her family’s business, then called Gregory & Paul’s. Friends who’ve attended Coney Island’s famed air shows of the past –the last one was in 2000– say the jumpers landed with unerring precision on targets set out on the beach.

New York City Air Show

The New York City Air Show in Coney Island has been on the Coney Rumor Mill’s radar since last summer and on fan websites since early this year. Fence Check says the venue is MCU Park and lists the following participants: Air Boss & Consulting International, B-25 Panchito, Horsemen Flight Team, USAF F-22A Raptor Demo, USAF Heritage Flight, USMC AV-8 Harrier Demo, USN F/A-18 Hornet East Demo – VFA-106, USN Leap Frogs, and Mike Wiskus & the Lucas Oil Pitts. The new air show has a logo, a website under construction and a Facebook page. And they are already planning ahead for next year with “the New York City Air Show in Coney Island” on the Blue Angels schedule for August 20-21, 2016.

Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Astroland sponsored not only the USAF Thunderbirds but also the US Army’s Golden Knights parachute team as well as the Navy’s Blue Angels in 2000. The walls of Astroland’s office were emblazoned with dramatic news photos of these annual events. The flamboyant Coney Island press agent Milton Berger was the “air show chairman” and a master at estimating attendance. “For the first day of a three-day air show, he reported a crowd of only 750,000, but only to leave room for much bigger crowds that he would report for the next two days,” his obit says.

US Navy Leap Frogs

The U.S. Navy Parachute Demonstration Team, the Leap Frogs, will be part of the New York City Air Show. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Torrey W. Lee

How many people are projected to attend this year’s air show? In 2010, a Coney Island Air Show featuring the Thunderbirds was planned but could not get all of the necessary permits–a complicated situation by all accounts– and was cancelled. The director of that show told ATZ that “a conservative estimate would be 500,000 per day.” The air show will also be visible for blocks beyond the amusement district. According to the USAF Thunderbirds fact sheet, the largest crowd in USAF Thunderbirds history –2.25 million– was on July 4, 1987 at their Coney Island air show.

Fourth of July air shows and fireworks have been a Coney tradition since the 1940s. In 1957, New York City’s delegation to the House of Representatives lobbied the Secretary of Defense for a national air show in Coney Island that would demonstrate America’s “airpower for peace.” The May event grew into Armed Forces Week with the sponsorship of the US Air Force Recruiting Services, the City of New York and the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce.

USAF Thunderbirds at Coney Island

The largest crowd in USAF Thunderbirds history was on July 4, 1987 at Coney Island where 2.25 million people watched as the Thunderbirds performed. Photo via USAF Thunderbirds

UPDATE June 1, 2015:

It’s been 15 years since Coney Island’s last air show but 2015 won’t be the year for a long-awaited comeback after all. ATZ has learned the New York Air Show that was planned for Coney Island on August 29 and 30 is being moved 60 miles north of New York City, to Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, NY!

Related posts on ATZ…

April 10, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Power Surge and Enterprise-Style Ride Set for Comeback

March 3, 2015: Coney Island 2015: The Whip Returns with a NASCAR Twist

January 31, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Wahlburgers Signage Goes Up at Thor’s Retail Building

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

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ATZ has learned that the official contact and Director of Air Operations for the August 28-29th Coney Island appearance of the USAF Thunderbird Air Show is Ted Plana, who holds the same job with Air Lauderdale Beach Fest. He is a 14-year veteran of the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. air show, which is set for April 24-25 after a two year hiatus. Will Coney Island’s new air show be anything like its Florida counterpart? And who is the secretive sponsor? One possibility is the AVP Beach Volleyball Tournament, which has previously explored the idea of bringing an air show to Coney Island. Neither Ted Plana nor AVP returned calls requesting comment.

Diamond formation. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform at air show at Barksdale AFB, La. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Denise A. Rayder

Diamond formation. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform at air show at Barksdale AFB, La. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Denise A. Rayder

We’re thrilled the Thunderbirds will be returning to Coney Island. It looks like Coney Island business owners will be getting their wish for a major event in August. As we reported yesterday in “USAF Thunderbirds Air Show Returns to Coney Island in August 2010,” the Dec. 8th release of the team’s 2010 schedule was the first time that many Coney Islanders in the know, including Dick Zigun of Coney Island USA, had heard of the show. Lynn Kelly of the CIDC told us they did not have any information on this event nor its sponsorship. “It is not a City event according to our colleagues,” says Kelly.

air lauderdaleThe Florida air show’s Facebook fan page describes the Lauderdale show as “One of the world’s largest spectator events from 1995 to 2007, this two-day celebration features top military and civilian performances along four miles of beautiful Fort Lauderdale beach. A showcase that draws millions each year.” You may want to go down to Fort Lauderdale for spring break and check it out.

According to Air Lauderdale’s Sherry Adams, the principals of the Fort Lauderdale show are not involved in the Coney Air Show. In fact they’re seeking sponsors for their show’s revival and Adams asked me to send some their way! ATZ liked what we saw on the Florida beach fest’s Facebook page, including their retro travel poster, so much that we became a fan.

An article in East Magazine with Air Lauderdale’s Stan Smith and Dan Barnett describes the components of the revival as “Keep the air show, add a beach festival with different acts each year, charge admission which creates a sustainable business model so the departure of one big sponsor won’t end the show as it did in 2007.” The sponsor that departed was McDonald’s, which spent $3 million on the event.

Like Coney Island, the Florida event is staged on a famous public beach. The gated admission area sounds similar to what the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tournament does when they bring their show to the Coney Island Beach. In fact, the AVP contacted Air Lauderdale last summer about putting on an air show during the volleyball tournament, says Adams. Since the sponsors are keeping quiet, we’re guessing the AVP might be the air show sponsor! But we won’t know for sure till they release their tour schedule for 2010. The AVP tour runs from March through September. In past seasons, the AVP has come to Coney Island sometime in July.

Today, the City of Fort Lauderdale Commission authorized charging $5 for advanced purchase of Air Lauderdale Beach Fest tickets for next April 24 and 25 along Fort Lauderdale Beach and a $10 entry fee the day of the show. Air Lauderdale’s Stan Smith told the Orlando Sentinel:

The air show is free as it occurs in the air. 75% of the beach is free where you can take your cooler and family. We are charging $5 for a beach festival that has a center show view of one of the greatest air shows on earth. Music, food, business exhibitors including a green village featuring new products are part of the experience. Plus extreme sports, kids zones and games and prizes. We think its more than a fair deal. We’re helping charities and celebrating Fleet Week’s 20th anniversary in our “Thank The Troops Zone.”

UPDATE August 10, 2010:

We’re sorry to report the Coney Island Air Show could not get all of the necessary permits–a complicated situation by all accounts– and persistent rumors that the air show would be cancelled or “postponed” have turned out to be true. The Thunderbirds finally removed “Brooklyn, NY” from their schedule. Air Force Week NYC will go on without a Coney Island Air Show. Instead they’re advertising the Aug 25 air show in Atlantic City!

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[If you’re looking for info about the 2015 New York Air Show in Coney Island, here you go.]

The U.S. Air Force “Thunderbirds” precision aerial demonstration team has announced its 2010 air show schedule and ta da da da.…”Brooklyn NY, Coney Island” has the August 28-29 slot! According to the group’s fact sheet, the largest crowd, 2.25 million people, to see a Thunderbirds performance was at Coney Island on July 4, 1987. We can’t wait to see how many zillion people show up for the new Coney Island Air Show in August 2010! (Cancelled! See August 10 Update below.)

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform a 6-ship formation fly over during an airshow. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Frye

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform a 6-ship formation fly over during an airshow. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Frye

The return of the Thunderbirds to the People’s Playground is cause for celebration. The last time the Thunderbirds were in Coney Island was 1993, according to Sgt. Pamela Anderson of the USAF Thunderbirds Public Affairs Office. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, Astroland sponsored not only the USAF flyers but also the US Army’s parachute team as well as the Navy’s Blue Angels in 2000. From the July 3, 1987 article by Andrew L. Yarrow in the New York Times…

Above Coney Island, the wild blue yonder will be wilder than usual this weekend as the Thunderbirds, the Air Force aerobatic jet team, and the Army’s Golden Knights precision parachute jump team perform a variety of aerial stunts. The Thunderbirds alone take to the skies this afternoon at 1:30 in the vicinity of the Boardwalk and West 10th Street. Both groups appear tomorrow from about 1:30 to 2:45 P.M. And on Sunday at 1:30, the Knights will perform such maneuvers as passing batons and jumping from 13,000 feet onto a small target banner.

The walls of Astroland’s office were emblazoned with dramatic news photos of these annual events. The flamboyant Coney Island press agent Milton Berger, who worked for Steeplechase Park, the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce and Astroland Park, was the “air show chairman” and a master at estimating attendance. “For the first day of a three-day air show, he reported a crowd of only 750,000, but only to leave room for much bigger crowds that he would report for the next two days,” his obit says. When Dick Zigun of Coney Island USA learned on Tuesday about the Thunderbirds return via a post on the Coney Island Message Board, he posted: “I produced the last [air show] on behalf of Astroland and a decade ago the ‘free’ show cost over $100,000. Who is the sponsor?” [See Dec. 11 update on “Air Force Week”]

Good question. Since the Thunderbirds’ December 8th press release doesn’t say, we’ll have to wait till regular business hours on Wednesday to find out who’s paying for the show and if the Army’s parachute team will return as well. In recent years, the Thunderbirds have headlined the Memorial Day weekend New York Air Show at Jones Beach sponsored by the Bethpage Federal Credit Union. Jones Beach in Wantagh, New York will instead host the Navy’s Blue Angels in May 2010.

Fourth of July air shows and fireworks have been a Coney tradition since the 1940s. In 1957, New York City’s delegation to the House of Representatives lobbied the Secretary of Defense for a national air show in Coney Island that would demonstrate America’s “airpower for peace.” The May event steadily grew into Armed Forces Week with the sponsorship of the US Air Force Recruiting Services, the City of New York and the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce. According to Billboard, the 1958 schedule included the 52-piece Women’s Air Force Band at Steeplechase Pier, plus precision flying demonstrations by the Navy Blue Angels flying team, aerial refueling, Coast Guard jet assisted take off from water and Army helicopter rescue display!

Historian Charles Denson, who grew up in Coney Island, vividly recalls the air shows of the 1960s in the chapter titled “Civil Defense” in Coney Island: Lost and Found.

The show began on the beach with a simulated nuclear explosion—“a make believe atomic burst” was the official description—beside the Steeplechase Park pier…. A sonic boom announced the formation of fighter jets from Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field which performed acrobatics above the crowds on the Boardwalk. Skydivers dropped from planes and landed on the beach The Air Force then orchestrated a slow speed flyover of light fighter jets and huge prop driven troop transports that hung at stall speed just over our heads.

UPDATE August 10, 2010:

We’re sorry to report the Coney Island Air Show could not get all of the necessary permits–a complicated situation by all accounts– and persistent rumors that the air show would be cancelled or “postponed” have turned out to be true. The high cost of police security for the event was also rumored to be a factor. The Thunderbirds finally removed “Brooklyn, NY” from their schedule. Air Force Week NYC will go on without a Coney Island Air Show. Instead they’re advertising the Thunderbirds performance at the Aug 25 air show in Atlantic City!

Here’s a look at the Thunderbirds performing at the 2009 Jones Beach Air Show. Video courtesy of Steve’s Airshow World

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