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Genesee County Airport

Photos: Sunday at Wings Over Batavia

By Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene

Wings Over Batavia's second and final day brought out another big crowd to the Genesee County Airport.

Photos by Steve Ognibene

Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene

'I'm gobsmocked!' Wings Over Batavia delights spectators, showcases operational efficiency

By Mike Pettinella
Tom and Nancy Lamb
Tom and Nancy Lamb at Wings Over Batavia air show on Saturday. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

Wings Over Batavia made a triumphant return on a cool and breezy Saturday night as more than a dozen highly skilled aerobatic and military pilots thrilled an estimated crowd of 7,000 at the Genesee County Airport.

Spectators were treated to what air show organizers repeatedly said was “the best of the best” on the air show circuit -- looking up in amazement as the performers maneuvered their planes through a series of rolls, loops, spins, twists and turns.

“This is my first show, and I’m gobsmacked!,” said Nancy Lamb, using a word defined as utterly astonished. “I can’t believe how they can do these things. It’s wild.”

Lamb and her husband, Tom, traveled from their Reading, Pa., home for the air show and also for a family wedding in Oakfield. Both retired, they said they’re having a blast and enjoying their 18-month-old twin grandchildren.

From the traffic control getting to the airport on Saile Drive to the hundreds of friendly volunteers at their posts to the layout of the various viewing areas, the four-hour show went off without a hitch (with just a few sprinkles of rain around the 5 p.m. starting time).

Skydiver Luke Aikins made a grand entrance to kick things off, floating safely to earth, American flag in hand, as the national anthem was sung. And it was Nathan Hammond – the Skywriter – who closed out the event by releasing fireworks from his Super Chipmunk as he buzzed through and around a dazzling show-ending pyrotechnics' display.

“We’re looking forward to the fireworks,” said James Turchiarelli of Depew, who was at the show with his fiancée Alexis Jefferds and 6-year-old Willa. “I haven’t been to one of these shows in years, and it’s pretty great.”

Midway through the show, American pride took center stage as the U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II (“Warthog”) piloted by Capt. Lindsay “MAD” Johnson and P-51 Mustang steered by Lee Lauderback linked up for a Heritage tribute with the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor that flew into Genesee County airspace.

The powerful sound of the supersonic stealth fighter Raptor and the precise formation of the trio of planes had the audience spellbound.

Wings Over Batavia, the first such event in Genesee County in 25 years, concludes tonight with the show starting at 5 p.m. For more information, go to

Some news and notes from the ground:


Mona and Steve Doyon
Mona and Steve Doyon met at the air show in 1996. In the background, is where Steve jumped to as a Navy SEAL.

Wings Over Batavia has a special place in the lives of Batavian Steve and Mona Doyon. It was 27 years ago when Steve, as a member of the Navy SEAL parachute team, performed at the Genesee County Airport and, later that Saturday evening, met Doyon, his future wife.

“Five of us came up and did a static line jump, and another five did a high altitude jump, freefall jump. After that, we packed up and stayed for the day, and then I met Mona over at The Sheraton, where they had a big gathering,” Steve said during yesterday’s show. “We met at the gathering, stayed in touch and did a long-distance relationship thing for a while. Then, she moved down with me to Virginia Beach, we got married, and she stayed with me through my military career.”

In 2004, Steve left the Navy and took a job with the New York State Police. They moved back to Batavia, Mona’s hometown, and have lived here ever since.

Mona, who works for All Babies Cherished in Batavia, recalled that she was at the show in 1996 with her mother and father and her three small children, watching the Navy SEAL skydivers.

“He (Steve) fell from the sky. God knew what I needed, and he fell from the sky,” she said.

Steve has been with the State Police Special Operations team for the past 16 years and also is a chaplain with the Air National Guard.


Williams family
Catherine Williams and Rob Williams, right, with their son, Cole, who's affectionally known as Mr. Chill.

Growing up in California, Catherine “Cat” Williams never imagined being part of the air show circuit. But today, she’s relishing her role as “air show mom.”

“This was definitely strange to me, but I am learning every day,” she said, noting that she and her husband, Rob, have helped out at Batavian Pete Zeliff’s WNY Aviation Adventure Camp for children for the past 10 years. “I’m amazed at what these pilots do. They are just phenomenal.”

She and Rob, who is from Rochester and lived in Barre Center for a while, own four vintage airplanes.

“Rob is teaching me how to fly,” she said. “He is so patient in teaching me the importance of how to get the plane down if needed, so we do a lot of touch-and-go."

Cat said she came to New York about seven years ago after her daughter enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.

Rob supports the pilots on the ground.

“I’m the ramp rat,” he said. “Whatever needs to be done. Like last night, I was bringing all the heavy planes in. If we need to run and fix the smoke oil, whatever they need.”


Bill Foraker
Bill Foraker is the "go-to guy" when it comes to air operations.

When it comes to cross-training, Bill Foraker of Green Valley, Ariz., is an expert.

“I work air shows around the country. I've worked on air ops and ground ops. I think I've done every job involved in air shows over the years. I used to fly in air shows, I’ve air bossed, I’ve announced, I’ve done all kinds of stuff,” said Foraker, 72, dressed in bright orange with his Air Operations badge.

Foraker’s job for the Batavia show started several weeks ago as he made hotel and rental car arrangements for the performers. His varied duties continued yesterday.

“During the show, I'll be on the radio with the air boss, doing pretty much anything the air boss needs,” he said. “And when the American flag comes down, I'm going to take a group of kids out there that are volunteers, and we’re going to go out and gather up the flag after hits the ground.”

The threat of rain had Foraker monitoring the weather pattern on his phone.

“Right now, I'm watching the weather because we've got rain about 45 minutes west of here headed this way. But it looks like it's coming apart as it hits the ground. But I'm watching that, and I'll keep the air boss and everybody informed if there's any convective activity on rain,” he said.

Foraker said he helps out at five or six shows a year. In two weeks, he’ll be at a show in Sacramento, Calif.

“I'm actually directing ground operations because we have a bunch of static displays --100 airplanes on static for people to walk around and look at. So I get there early. We park all of them and then work with the air boss for the air show. And then after the air show, we get them all out.”

Skywriting spurs pre-show sales and volunteers for Wings Over Batavia

By Mike Pettinella
airshow wings over batavia

A late surge in volunteer sign-ups has Batavian Pete Zeliff, catalyst of Genesee County’s return to the air show arena after a 25-year hiatus, feeling pretty good just hours before the start of the star-studded Wings Over Batavia event.

“After the last volunteer meeting we had, another 180 people signed up to be volunteers. So, we’re near 400 volunteers right now for this show, which is about right where we wanted to be,” Zeliff said on Friday at the rehearsal for the show that takes place today and Sunday nights at Genesee County Airport on Saile Drive.

Zeliff said he’s projecting attendance of 10,000 to 12,000 per day. The show runs from 5-9 p.m. both days.

“Yesterday, when Nate Hammond went up and did the sky writing, every time he went up and did that, the online ticket sales spiked. So, that was great to see that,” he noted.

The show is being sponsored by more than 30 businesses and individuals from the surrounding area.

“We did okay on sponsors, but I wish we could have done a little better,” he said. “But we’ll get there. It’s our first year.”

Zeliff said he is impressed by the caliber of performers who have flown into Batavia to participate.

“Well, I think a lot of people didn’t realize (the magnitude of the show) or didn’t think that it was really going to happen,” he said. “Now, with everything going on here, people are seeing that this is going to happen.”

When asked how Genesee County was able to attract such top-notch talent, a couple of the performers said it was due to their respect for Pete’s wife, Doreen Hillard-Zeliff.

“Dennis (Dunbar, show chairperson) helps, but Doreen is the reason why everybody’s here. Doreen is it,” said Kevin Coleman of the Red Bull team. 

His partner, Luke Aikins, agreed.

“I think Doreen and Dennis, that combination of those two. At every air show Dennis has ever organized, everything runs smooth. They take care of the performers. And that's what Doreen and Dennis are known for from us. They keep us safe, and they give us great support. And we're happy to be here for them,” he said.

Zeliff had no problem getting on that bandwagon.

“Doreen was the air show mom to all these guys when they were young and getting started,” he said. “You can see that they have a lot of respect for Doreen.

“And it’s amazing to have the lineup that we have. The A-10 sitting out here on the ramp. There hasn’t been – other than helicopters at practice here from the National Guard – a military plane on the ramp in 26 years. Plus, Mike Goulian, Rob Holland, Lee Lauderback. We’ve got the top performers in the industry.”

Photos from Friday's rehearsal flights by Jim Burns.

airshow wings over batavia
airshow wings over batavia
airshow wings over batavia
airshow wings over batavia
airshow wings over batavia
airshow wings over batavia

Red Bull duo jumping at the chance to wow the spectators at Wings Over Batavia this weekend

By Mike Pettinella
Red Bull
The Red Bull team, from left, skydiver Luke Aikins and pilot Kevin Coleman, at today's Wings Over Batavia preparation at the Genesee County Airport. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Kevin Coleman is living the dream.

“I’m 33 years old and I started flying air shows when I was 18. So, I grew up in an air show family and my dad flew air shows. Ever since I was 3 years old, this is all I’ve ever wanted to do,” the Coushatta, La. resident said this afternoon while getting ready for this weekend’s Wings Over Batavia Air Show.

Coleman and skydiver Luke Aikins comprise the Red Bull “Airforce” team that wows audiences all over the world. The event at the Genesee County Airport is their 16th show this year.

Their airplane is an Extra EA-300, a 1,200-pound, 400-horsepower machine that was built specially for aerobatics, Coleman said.

“Basically, it was built to do all the cool stunts or tricks, whatever you want to call it,” he added. “So, it's not comfortable; it's not a good traveling airplane. It's built for one purpose and that's to fly air shows and do all the cool stunts.”

Sponsored by Red Bull, Coleman said he’s been flying this plane since 2010.

“I own the airplane, while Red Bull is our partner that makes the deal go around,” he said.

Aikins, 49, of Seattle, said he’s been skydiving since 1989, amassing 22,000 dives over that time.

“I’ve done lots of jumping all over the place. I think the thing that is most known about me happened in 2017 when I jumped out of a plane without a parachute and landed in a giant net,” he said. “I did that on live TV and that was from 25,000 feet.”

Coleman quickly responded, “When he says it was a giant net, it was not a giant net. It was a small net.”

Aikens then said it was a 100- by 100-foot net “and I landed in that, without a parachute.”

He won’t be attempting that stunt this weekend, but he said he has something really special in store.

“Here in Batavia, I’m going to jump into a big American flag to start the show and Kevin’s going to circle around me with smoke while the national anthem goes on,” he said. “After that, Kevin’s going to put on an awesome display with the extra flip-and-twist-into-it turns and blow your mind.”

Later at night, Aikins said he’s going to come out wearing a wingsuit with pyrotechnics (sparklers) on his feet.

“I'm going to come out with a wingsuit with a sparklers on my feet and I’m going to jump out from about 7,000 feet and fly my wingsuit at night … and open a parachute and land in that.”

'Skywriter' Hammond set to thrill Wings Over Batavia crowd with unique pyro-musical show

By Mike Pettinella
Nathan and Alex
Nathan K. Hammond, left, and Alex Jameison stand in front of their "Ghost Writer" airplane today at the Genesee County Airport. They are preparing for the Wings Over Batavia Air Show on Saturday and Sunday nights. 
Photo by Mike Pettinella.

If you’re one of the many Western New York residents who happened to catch the cool messages in the sky on Thursday afternoon, you may be wondering who flying the airplane and just how did he or she perform such tricks.

The pilot of the plane – a 1956 de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk – was none other than Nathan K. Hammond, well-known on the air show circuit for his skywriting.

A native of Rhinebeck, a small village in Dutchess County, who now lives in Kentucky, Hammond is part of an all-star cast that will be performing on Saturday and Sunday at the Wings Over Batavia Air Show at the Genesee County Airport.

The Batavian caught up to Hammond and his assistant, Alex Jamieson, another former Rhinebeck resident now living in North Carolina, earlier today prior to the show’s “dress rehearsal” at the Saile Drive facility.

“(Skywriting) is what we do to help the air shows that we’re at,” said Hammond, 42, acknowledging that he created quite a buzz with his antics. “While some people can make their airplane do amazing things, such as Michael Goulian’s airplane here behind me (Goulian pilots an Extra 330SC, arguably the world’s premiere aerobatic competition and air show plane), one of the things I can do with this airplane is to write in the sky.”

Hammond explained that he loads the plane with smoke oil consisting of a lightweight mineral oil with a lot of paraffin in it that, when injected into the exhaust, expands about 800 times its size.

“So, one cubic inch of oil becomes 800 cubic inches of smoke. We flow a whole lot of smoke and a whole lot of oil and are able to fill the sky and be able to draw those messages that you can see when we're two miles up in the sky,” he said. “We did lots of smiley faces, lots of hearts, and we did lots of butterflies over top.”

He said he was born and raised in the air show industry, down the Hudson (River) in Rhinebeck.

“I went to college and got a business degree so I could run an airport, and that’s what I do – 9 to 5 at my airport in Kentucky, running a business at the airport that maintains airplanes,” he said. “Then, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I get to go out and play.”

Hammond said his career is supported by his wife, Kelley, who coordinates the night show.

“Everybody has seen a skywriting over top during the day. The next step is Saturday and Sunday night when we’re going to load about 200 pounds of 'pyro' – of fireworks – on the wings of this airplane and fly with the fireworks that are coming off the ground and have a pyro-musical like you have never seen,” he said, his voice sparked with enthusiasm.

The Wings Over Batavia show will be Hammond’s ninth of the season – and he still has another eight more after this.

“We used to (fly) just in the summer months, but now our first show starts in January, and our last show is December 4th,” he said. “We follow about 70 degrees (temperature-wise). We start in Florida, and we end in Florida.”

He called the layout at Genesee County Airport a “perfect venue for an air show,” noting easy access to multiple towns, with Rochester to the east and Buffalo to the west – “with nice roads that lead in and out.”

“It’s a big, giant airport with lots of space so that everybody gets a front-row seat.”

Hammond also raved about the roster of performers for the Batavia show.

“The lineup for this show is nothing but headliners. You don’t see these performers gathered in one place, except maybe in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, which is the second largest air show in the world (and) the largest in the western hemisphere,” he said. “If you miss this show, you have missed out on a monster opportunity to see the best of the best of the best.”

At this year’s Oshkosh show, Hammond earned the Bill Barber Award for Showmanship.

Jamieson, who has been helping Hammond for the past five years, said they connected “over our love for antique airplanes” at the old Rhinebeck Aerodrome.

He said the plane was built as a training aircraft but also has the right stuff for aerobatics.

“This one has a more modern inline-six engine – a Lycoming IO 540, with about 300 to 350 horsepower,” he said. “It’s quite a hoot of an airplane to go up and do aerobatics.”

When you add the fireworks component, the show's bound to be extra special, Hammond said.

"We'll make our appearance during the fireworks, and then we've got a whole bunch more surprises in that time," he said. "So, at night what's neat is ... we bolt about 200 pounds of fireworks on the wing tips of the airplane. So, we'll actually have fireworks coming off of the airplane while there's fireworks coming off of the ground. It is going to be a bright, spectacular event."

batavia air show arrivals aug 29 2023
Nathan K. Hammond arrived in Batavia on Tuesday in his Chipmunk skywriting plane.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Flying in entertainment and commerce as part of air show's return this weekend

By Joanne Beck
batavia air show arrivals aug 29 2023
One of two MX aerobatic planes that landed at Genesee County Airport this afternoon taxis into a hangar.
Photo by Howard Owens.

There’s a rule in the air show business that you’ll know how good the event will be by how well you’re treated and taken care of in the first 15 minutes of arrival, Doreen Hillard-Zeliff says.

As one of the lead organizers of the resurrected Wings Over Batavia Air Show, she intends to provide nothing but an A-plus experience for those performers and pilots coming into town for the weekend’s event. 

They’ll get a hearty welcome, no doubt, a rental car, their hotel packet with a map, a bottle of water, local information, a swag bag, necessary credentials, and — an especially important local commerce element — a community event and some wining and dining.

“So Thursday night, we’re having a community event at Eli Fish, in back at Jackson Square. It should be a lot of fun, and everybody can come. And there's music. Matty Gray hired a band that is going to play. So there'll be appetizers and drinks, and we're going to introduce the performers,” she said during an interview with The Batavian. “They all like to give back. The only thing we wish is that the kids were in school right now because they make school visits. And it's real special for them to do that; they love giving back to the communities that they get to fly and perform for.”

There might even be a few pilots flying over Jackson Square during this Thursday’s event. It’s all part of a bigger picture that draws revenue beyond the airport into the community at large, she said. 

Gates open at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for Wings Over Batavia at Genesee County Airport on Saile Drive, and events run from 5 p.m. into the evening, finishing with fireworks. 

That revenue is being spread throughout Genesee County, as organizers have been taking air show participants out for meals while they’re also staying at local hotels. Harrington’s has been booked to provide breakfast throughout the weekend. 

Formerly Hillard, Doreen, one of the two air show co-chairs, just got married to Pete Zeliff, a fellow airplane and air show enthusiast who owns a hangar at the Genesee County Airport. They’ve been working on the show with a committee and a handful of hired professional, seasoned veteran air show staff to ensure a smooth first-time event, including an air show director, a parking specialist, and a ticket agent.

Committee member, county Highway Superintendent Tim Hens, has also brought his expertise into the mix with responsibility for the county’s safety. 

“I’ve been focused on creating safe access for parking, safe pedestrian access to the site, safe movement of planes, limiting impact on our airport tenants, managing traffic around the airport, coordinating lighting during and after the show.  I feel like everything is in a very good place. The Air Show has an excellent parking plan, and it’s great that they are including the price of parking in the admission tickets to get people off the roads and into the airport to avoid traffic,” Hens said. “We have a good plan in place for pedestrian safety, and the county has made several on-site improvements to move folks through the venue. We will be doing final inspections all (this) week to make sure things are safe. We will be putting out some PR this week … highlighting parking and access to the airport as well as some community notification on the fireworks, pyrotechnics and explosions that will occur on 9/2 and 9/3 as part of the show.”

While talking, Hillard-Zeliff had to pause momentarily to move off a ramp while a man cleared off some “foreign debris” in preparation for more planes to arrive. There was plenty of commotion, as could be heard in the air all afternoon and into the evening.

While preparing for the show was exciting, it was certainly old hat to Hillard-Zeliff, who grew up in air shows, she said, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, home to the AirVenture Museum, which is dedicated to the preservation and display of historic and experimental aircraft and antiques, classics and warbirds. She’s also involved in the Air National Council of Air Shows and wants to bring back air shows as a more common staple to communities. 

“It celebrates what we’re all about: the human spirit,” she said. “I call it aerial ballet because some of the acts are just so beautiful, with the smoke and the music. And it just does something of your soul I think. You can tell I love it.”

So even though she rattled off names of performers and pilots and planes that may not be familiar to everyone, they’re the real deal, she said. Trainer fighters, beautiful Mustangs from World War II in a beach team doing a day and night show, the F-22 Raptor, Rob Holland Aerosports, Kevin Coleman Extra 300 SHP, a choreographed pyromusical fireworks show and many other acts that are mostly described as to leave the audience in awe.

Some of these aircraft have such precision aerobatic skills, with super light maneuverability, yet there are also regular Cessna family planes that can also manage similar feats despite their much more sensitive carriages, she said. There’s a pilot that “pours a glass of water in the cockpit and doesn’t spill it,” she said. The audience can see this because there’s a live video for those below to watch.

And there are many other plane acts that take place at twilight and at night, and all are choreographed to “beautiful music,” she said. Or with the 1,000-foot wall of fire. The U.S. Air Force A-10 is one of her favorite demonstrations.

“It’s just different,” she said. “If I was in the desert, I’d be scared. It’s got big gatling guns.”

Don’t let her gender fool you; air shows and the industry are drawing more women, she said.

“It’s slowly become half and half,” she said. “Our premiere team is A-10 demo; it’s female. My niece is an F-16 pilot. A lot of my family fly and they are all girls. A lot of women are coming around.”

Hens credits her and Zeliff for bringing the air show back and thinks the community has been very supportive of its return. Hens alternates between excitement and nervousness every day as he approaches the actual event, he said. But he’s definitely looking forward to it.

“The acts I am most excited to see are the P-51s. I’ve been in love with those planes ever since I was a kid, and they are one of the reasons I went to the Air Force Academy. It will also be great to see the P-51 fly with the A-10 and the F-22 in a Heritage Flight,” he said. “Everyone always enjoyed the air shows in the 90s, and there is excitement for it to be back. There’s also a desire by many to see community events return. We’ve lost so many over the years. I think the hardest part is getting volunteers to run these things. They don’t happen by themselves, and much to everyone’s surprise, there is usually little to no government involvement outside of Police and EMS.”

Perhaps that’s why organizers have been calling the air show so family-friendly. It’s a grassroots type of deal, and more volunteers are always needed, organizers said. Nonprofits can make 10 percent of the proceeds if they work in concession stands.

Ticket sales have been going well, and The Mustang Club category was sold out as of Tuesday. For Hillard-Zeliff, she also sees the show as very affordable and patriotic to offer something for the community and the soul. The Ghostwriter will be leaving messages in the sky throughout this week, so you may want to be glancing upward until the show begins, she said.

Or, as Hens said, “it will be life-changing.”

“Aviation has so much to offer, and most kids just aren’t exposed to it. The air show provides a great opportunity for kids in Genesee County,” he said.

batavia air show arrivals aug 29 2023
Doreen Hillard-Zeliff and Pete Zeiliff.
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia air show arrivals aug 29 2023
A pair of MX aerobatic planes do a flyover at the Genesee County Airport as they arrive in Batavia for this week's Wings Over Batavia airshow.
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia air show arrivals aug 29 2023
Any skywriting you see promoting the air show over the next few days will be the work of Nathan K. Hammond in his Chipmunk.
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia air show arrivals aug 29 2023
Pilot Bill Stein, who flew in on one of the MX planes, receives his swag bags, rental car keys, and directions to his hotel from Janet Rohan.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Wings Over Batavia Air Show returns after 25-year Hiatus

By Press Release
Submitted photo

Press Release:

Batavia and the Genesee County Airport welcome back the Wings Over Batavia Air Show September 2-3, marking a renewal of an event that last took place in 1998. The show will feature a mix of military and civilian aircraft including the U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II, the F-22 Raptor, and P-51 demonstration teams as well as world-class aerobatic performers Michael Goulian, Rob Holland, Matt Younkin, and more.

“This is a family-friendly event with aircraft performances that will delight the crowd,” said Air Show Director Dennis Dunbar. “And once the sun sets, the show will continue with a one-of-a-kind pyrotechnic musical featuring aircraft flying through explosions that are choreographed to music. It will be unlike anything
you’ve ever seen.”

Air show gates open on Saturday and Sunday (of Labor Day weekend) at 2 p.m. Flying begins at 5 p.m. and continues through twilight hours. The show ends at 9 p.m. with choreographed fireworks and aerobatic aircraft performances.

The air show lineup will be one of the largest of any air show in 2023 across North America. The lineup will include: 

  • U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II Demo Team
  • U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor
  • U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight
  • P-51 Mustang Demo Team “Mad Max” & “Little Witch”
  • Nathan Hammond
  • Matt Younkin – Beech 18
  • Michael Goulian
  • Ken Rieder
  • Rob Holland
  • Bill Stein
  • Kevin Coleman
  • Jim Peitz
  • Lee Lauderback – P-51 Mustang “Crazy Horse”
  • Choreographed Pyromusical Fireworks Show
  • Luke Aikins – Red Bull Airforce
  • Airythmia

The air show also presents a volunteer opportunity for civic groups, schools, sports teams, and more to raise funds for their organization. Volunteers have a backstage pass to the sights and sounds of the air show and will receive a volunteer t-shirt and food and water during their volunteer shift. Simply visit the Wings Over Batavia website and click on the ‘Volunteer’ button to sign up.

Rotary's annual Father's Day breakfast set for June 18

By Press Release
File photo of Batavia Rotary's annual Fly-in Breakfast at Genesee County Airport in Batavia. Photo by Howard Owens.
File photo from 2013 of Batavia Rotary's annual Fly-in Breakfast at Genesee County Airport in Batavia. 
Photo by Howard Owens.

Press Release:

Batavia Rotary Club’s annual Fly-In Breakfast is set for Father's Day, Sunday, June 18 at the Genesee County Airport. The Fly-In Breakfast is open to the public and features an all-you-can-eat breakfast and an opportunity to get up-close to a variety of private air craft flown in by pilots from throughout the region.

Serving begins at 7:30 a.m. and continues through 11 a.m. The breakfast consists of eggs, pancakes, sausage, juice, coffee, tea and milk. Again this year, the breakfast will feature a special Rotary Egg Bake, which includes: eggs, peppers, onions, sausage and cheese that promises to be totally delicious.

The Breakfast is prepared and served by members of the Batavia Rotary Club. Proceeds from the Fly-In Breakfast will benefit the club’s youth and community service programs.

Adult tickets are $12. Tickets for children ages 4 to 12 are $8. Children under 4 are admitted free. Tickets may be obtained at Lawley Insurance, from any Batavia Rotarian or at the door.

The Genesee County Airport is located at 4701 East Saile Drive, which runs between Route 98 and Bank Street Road, west of the City of Batavia. Saile Drive is just north of the Batavia exit of the Thruway.

The Rotary Club will serve over 1,000 breakfasts. Most of the food has been donated. Volunteer chefs and servers are Batavia Rotarians and their families.

Mark your calendars for homemade pancakes, plane not required

By Joanne Beck


Former county Manager Jay Gsell made a brief reappearance Monday at the Old County Courthouse to seek approval on behalf of the Batavia Rotary Club for the annual Fly-In breakfast later this year.

Apparently, the group is anxiously waiting for the summer fundraiser to arrive.

“We’re ready to rock and roll again,” Gsell said to the Public Service Committee members.

Rotary Club expects 800 to 900 attendees to the pancake breakfast, which has become a well-organized event that keeps drawing people for more, he said.

“That’s why we keep getting people coming back,” Gsell said.

Rotary Club had requested permission to host the breakfast at Genesee County Airport on June 18, and to also have related access to and use of the grounds prior to and after the event on June 16 through 20, “subject to the rules and regulations of the Genesee County Airport.”

The budget impact is minimal expense offset by Rotary’s promotion of the airport and increased fuel sales, the resolution states. Gsell added that attendees are expected to arrive by plane in addition to automobiles this year.

The Committee agreed to the request, and it will eventually go before the county Legislature for final approval.

File Photo of Jay Gsell serving up pancakes during a Rotary Fly-In Breakfast, by Howard Owens.

'Star-studded' lineup announced for Wings Over Batavia

By Press Release


Press release:

Calling it a “star-studded event,” Director Dennis Dunbar reports that area residents are in for a real treat when the Wings Over Batavia Air Show comes to the Genesee County Airport this fall.

The show is scheduled for Sat., Sept. 2 and Sun., Sept. 3 – Labor Day weekend -- with starting times to be confirmed. Dunbar said organizers are leaning toward starting around 5 p.m. both days.

“This truly will be an air show like you’ve never seen before,” Dunbar said. “We’ve secured world champion aerobatic performers, historical warbirds and modern military demonstrations.”

Highly respected in the air show arena, Dunbar said the Batavia show will feature high-powered lights and lasers and fire coming from the aircraft wings.

“Our goal is to offer a PyroBatic display in the night skies of Batavia,” he said. “This highflying spectacle of light, in flight, culminates with not just a spectacular fireworks show but a PyroMusical with an added twist.”

Dunbar, president of Dunbar Airshows, also serves as the director of Air Shows and Attractions at SUN ‘n FUN in Lakeland, Fla., and as the chairperson of the board of the International Council of Air Shows.

Already, about a dozen performers have been lined up for the show, which is seeking volunteers and sponsors, Dunbar added.

Headlining the list of acts is the USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II Demo Team, the Air Force’s premier close air support aircraft that provides invaluable protection to the troops on the ground.

Stationed out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, the A-10 team travels across the country to showcase the unique combat capabilities of the A-10 “Warthog.”

Also scheduled:

  • Ghostwriter Airshows: With over 200 pounds of pyro and illuminating LED lights, the stars become a backdrop for our trail from sparks and aerial burst of color. Originally designed as a trainer for the Royal Canadian Air Force, the 1956 deHavilland Chipmunk has been specially modified for Airshow aerobatics and Skywriting.
  • Matt Younkin in a Beech 18: One of the most unusual acts on the circuit, Younkin executes a series of Cuban eights, point-rolls and even loops. For his “Elephant Waltz,” Younkin rocks the wings of this huge transport more than 90 degrees with the landing gear and laps extended. His night performance features 17 spotlights and 13 strobes for a one-of-a-kind experience.
  • Ken Rieder: His performance lights up the skies over with heart-stopping aerobatics enhanced by luminescent Lairs and showering pyrotechnics.
  • Michael Goulian Aerosports: Goulian’s aggressive approach is an exercise in precision in every roll, pull and tumble of his Extra NG.
  • Rob Holland Aerosports: Holland is one of the most decorated, respected and innovative aerobatic pilots and airshow performers in the world. He flies the MXS-RH, an all-carbon Ober, competition–ready, single-seat aerobatic airplane designed and built by MX Aircraft.
  • Bill Stein in an Edge 540: Stein has logged more than 5,000 hours of aerobatic and formation light -- beginning when he was still a student pilot and has been dedicated to perfecting his skills ever since.
  • Kevin Coleman in an Extra 300 SHP: Coleman flies an Extra 300 SHP with a roll rate of 400 degrees per second and +/-10g capabilities. He is a second-generation pilot and air show performer.
  • Jim Peitz in a One-of-a-King Bonanza: Peitz’s specialized Beechcraft F33C Bonanza, one of only 118 built, performs an amazing demonstration that will leave fans completely mesmerized. It is capable of a wide range of aerobatic maneuvers (unusual for a Bonanza), including loops, point rolls, barrel rolls, snap rolls, Cuban eights, and hammerheads (yes, it goes vertical).
  • Lee Lauderback in the P-51 Mustang “Crazy Horse 2”: Legendary pilot Lee Lauderback will demonstrate how the P-51 Mustang achieved its WWII fame with its high-performance maneuvering.
  • High Flight Mustangs P-51 Demo Team “Mad Max & Little Witch”: Lou Horschel and Ariel Luedi form a unique P-51 acrobatic demo team. “Mad Max” is a Cavalier Mustang II that Horschel flew with El Salvador FAS 401 in 1969. “Little Witch” was originally built as a D-Model and was transferred to the RCAF Squadron 420 in 1950.
  • David Martin Aerobatics: David has an amazing selection of aircraft that he performs in all over North America. He has vintage biplane routine in the Bücker Jungmeister, high-energy aerobatics in his CAP-232, and an unexpected and exciting aerobatic offering in a seemingly non-aerobatic Beech Baron.

For information on becoming a show sponsor, go to the air show website – Several different sponsorship levels are available.


Disabled airplane reported on runway of Genesee County Airport

By Howard B. Owens

An airplane with a flat tire is stuck on the runway at the Genesee County Airport.

Town of Batavia Fire dispatched.

UPDATE 8:27 p.m.: The Town of Batavia chief is clearing the scene at the airport. "They're all set here," he reports.

‘Wings Over Batavia’ air show slated for return in September 2023

By Press Release


Press release:

Genesee County officials and business leaders are joining forces to once again fill the Batavia skies with the one-of-a-kind excitement generated by a professional air show.

The “Wings Over Batavia” festival -- a family-oriented event that is looking to feature awe-inspiring aerobatic jet teams such as the Blue Angels, Thunderbirds or Snowbirds and patriotic displays of F16 and F22 fighter jets -- tentatively has been scheduled for Sept. 15-17, 2023, at the Genesee County Airport on Saile Drive.

“We are in the process of putting committees together to handle the various aspects of conducting a show of this magnitude,” said County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens, who also oversees operations at the airport. “We haven’t had an air show since 1998, and it’s long overdue.”

Hens has presided over two meetings attended by county emergency services department staff members as well as municipal and agency representatives. Plans are to offer “a successful and safe event,” he said, adding that the group has enlisted the services of Doreen Hillard of Fort Worth, Texas, who has years of experience in the air show industry throughout the United States.

Batavia entrepreneur Peter Zeliff has been selected to serve as the festival’s general chair, with assistance from Hillard.

At Wednesday’s meeting at the county Fire Training Center on State Street Road, Zeliff said the committee is pursuing an agreement with Dennis Dunbar of Berlin, Wis., director of Air Show Operations for EAA AirVenture and president of Dunbar Airshows, to be the show’s promoter.

“With Doreen and Dennis on board, we know that our show will be first-rate,” Zeliff said. “And with the community’s support, we believe this is something that can take place on an annual basis.”

Zeliff said he already has been in contact with leading aviation industry operations and Genesee County business owners regarding sponsorship of the show.

“It is going to take a lot of financial and volunteer support to make this happen, and we’re counting on the people of the GLOW region to come through,” Zeliff added.

Photo: file photo of Whiskey 7 by Howard Owens

The air festival is scheduled to take place in conjunction with the renewal of the Wing Ding event on Sept. 16 in the City of Batavia.

Residents interested in volunteering in the planning and on-site operations of the air show are asked to contact Hens at

Highway superintendent floats the idea of an air show at Genesee County Airport, possibly in 2023

By Mike Pettinella

A return of an air show to the Genesee County Airport?

In the eyes of Genesee County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens, the stars are aligned for the county to show off its renovated airport by hosting an air show – maybe as soon as the summer of 2023.

Hens, who is responsible for overseeing operations at the East Saile Drive facility, made the suggestion at Wednesday’s county legislature’s Public Service Committee meeting.

“There is interest in an air show,” he said, adding that the airport has been “completely redone,” including installation of water and sewer systems to accommodate such an event.  “It would be a showcase for the community.”

The last air show in Genesee County took place in 1998, Hens said, and was well-attended. Air shows in other communities, such as Geneseo, Niagara Falls and Rochester, continue to be successful.

Hens said the event can be a moneymaker for the county – namely through fuel sales and sales tax revenue from purchases at the show. He said he would be able to line up a promoter and performers as soon as the legislature grants its approval.

In other news involving the airport, the committee forwarded the following resolutions to the legislature meeting next week:

  • Providing advance funding for a project to purchase snow removal equipment that is eligible for a $353,000 grant from the Aviation Capital Grant Program as part of the state’s AIR ’99 Program.

The county would receive reimbursement for that amount, but would be responsible for $39,250 of the expense, which would be paid out of the 1 percent sales tax fund.

Hens said he had been seeking funding for this venture from other sources and was “surprised” to learn that the county had received the grant. He said snow blowing equipment will be purchased since it’s more efficient using plows to clear the runways.

  • Contracting with C&S Engineers Inc. of Syracuse for as-needed airport engineering, construction management and grant administration services from April 1, 2022 through March 31, 2027. Hens said the company is “highly rated” and has worked with the county for three decades.

Genesee County airport to receive $159,000 from feds

By Mike Pettinella

The Genesee County Airport will receive $159,000 in federal funding through the recently-enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced on Thursday.

The latest round of funding will distribute $136,977,897 to 59 airports across New York State. Money can be used for improvements related to runways, taxiways, safety and sustainability projects, as well as terminal, airport-transit connections and roadway projects.

County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens, who oversees operations at the airport on Saile Drive, said he believes this award is another in a series "of standard funding that we normally get that doesn't have any fanfare attached to it."

Hens said he is waiting for more details on a similar funding announcement in the fall and has no specific information about yesterday's news.


Ongoing expansion, modernization of airport give Genesee County reasons to feel proud

By Mike Pettinella


When it comes to the Genesee County Airport, Tim Hens sees himself as a public servant with a private sector mentality.

And that philosophy has worked quite well over the past 20 years, according to the county highway superintendent, as the airport has been upgraded and modernized without a single dollar coming from county property tax revenue.

Hens gave The Batavian a tour of the sprawling facility along East Saile Drive in the Town of Batavia last week, pointing out the various buildings and providing insight into the funding of the operation that currently houses 68 aircraft, including single-engine planes, helicopters and “decent sized corporate jets.”

The county’s plan back in 2001 was to privatize the airport, Hens recalled.

“We were going to put the management of the airport out to bid to see if we can get a company to do it,” he said. “And our bids were out on the street, literally, as 911 happened. And if you remember back to 911, the whole airline industry and aviation industry just crumbled and shut down. It was not a good time to have a bid package out for airport management.”

Hens, who had recently been hired (he’s also the county engineer), said the county did not receive any responses to their request for proposal.

“So, by default, the county stepped in,” he said. “And I proposed that we hire some county employees and manage it. And luckily, it has worked out very, very well. We actually ended up sticking with that process for the last 20 years.”

As a result, Hens is able to use his business management skills to market the facility, assist in the bookkeeping, filing sales tax and supervising maintenance and upkeep.

“It’s like owning your own little business,” he said. “We've got employees to manage, we're selling fuel, we have to look at pricing, we’ve got to look at our competitors. It’s so different than my highway job where it's just fix what we got and plow the snow – and we do plow snow out here, too.”

Ownership of the airport enables the county to control its own destiny, Hens said.

“We have found that we could take in all the revenue, as opposed to paying it out to a management company or a private business to run the airport,” he said. “We were getting the full benefit of the revenue and could control our expenses. Plus, things move much faster – such as expanding the runway and other business decisions.”

The staff at the airport (other than Jeff and Carol Boshart of Boshart Enterprises; see accompanying story) consists of two full-time employees – manager Jason Long and airport attendant Ron Stringham – and a couple of part-timers who fill in during holidays and weekends.

The airport features a two-story main terminal that, along with the main hangar, was built in 2015 as part of a $4.9 million project, Hens said. The county received a grant for $300,000 and the remainder was bonded over 20 years.

The main terminal features a foyer, training rooms, pilot lounge, P&L Air flight school, break rooms and several offices. The main hangar, which is used by Boshart Enterprises, measures 100 by 120 feet with a 30-foot high ceiling.

Located to the west are six corporate hangars – three of which are owned by Genesee County and three that are privately owned – and five T-hangars that were built in 1997, 2008, 2011, 2015 and 2020. Those contain 46 separate smaller hangars, with one of them rented by Mercy Flight for its helicopters.

Hens said the facility is part of the county’s transportation and infrastructure operation, and is utilized by numerous local companies, including Milton CAT, Tompkins Financial, National Grid, Western New York Energy in Medina, Six Flags Darien Lake, HP Hood and Lamb Farms.

“It gets way more use than people think,” said Hens, an Air Force veteran who attended the Air Force Academy in Colorado – and has flown jets. “The best thing about it is that zero property taxes are put toward the airport.

“People say they are funding the hobbies of the rich. That’s not true. It’s a self-sustaining, self-paid-for operation. Since 2001, Genesee County has received $32 million in federal and state aid for the airport.”

He said that 95 percent of the funding is covered in most cases.

“The money is going to go somewhere, it might as well come here,” he said, adding that funding for the facility is based entirely on airline user fees through an airport trust fund.

“Our fuel sales and rental fees pay for the airport operation. We are showing an annual surplus of $80,000 to $100,000, and that money goes back exclusively for airport expenses and improvements.”

Hens said the county is planning to develop more of the land at the west end. In September, it applied for a $13 million grant to build a large hangar at the corner of State Street Road. It would be 100 percent funded by New York State through the Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization initiative.

“It’s a ‘If we build it they will come sort of thing.’ We need the hangar for larger jets of corporate site selectors who are representing businesses looking to locate here.”

Genesee County’s ability to run its own airport and turn a profit hasn’t gone unnoticed by officials of other counties, Hens said.

“I think, to this day, we are one of the few airports in upstate New York that make money. We get a lot of calls and I've done presentations as far away as Lake George as to what are you doing at your airport? How come you are successful? So, I think you're seeing more and more municipalities get involved in their airport operations.”

Although the county owns the airport, there is an opportunity for an entrepreneur to come in at the main terminal.

“We’ve got a small space carved out on the second floor for a café and sandwich shop with a seating area,” Hens said. “We’re looking for someone to run it.”

Photo at top: The main terminal at the Genesee County Airport on East Saile Drive. Photos by Mike Pettinella.


The main terminal lobby and County Line Service office.


Based aircraft at the Genesee County Airport, including a plane from the Civil Air Patrol.


T-Hangars. Forty-six individual units are rented at the airport.


The main terminal and main hangar were built in 2015.


View from second floor of the main terminal, looking northeast at fuel tanks and runway.

Jeff Boshart recalls start of his 40-year association with the Genesee County Airport

By Mike Pettinella


Little did Jeff Boshart know that his offer to help “keep the doors open” at the Genesee County Airport in 1982 would turn into a successful career in avionics as owner of Boshart Enterprises & Aircraft Services at the East Saile Drive facility.

Boshart, a Corfu resident who was living in Lancaster at the time, said he began employment at the airport under the supervision of Andy Cordes.

“About six months after I got here, he (Cordes) went out of business,” said Boshart, who, with his wife, Carol, operates the airplane repair/enhancement venture out of the main terminal and hangar. “If you remember in 1982 there weren’t many jobs and interest rates were like crazy.”

He said he approached Joseph Amedick, the Genesee County highway superintendent who was in charge of overseeing airport operations, thinking that “I can keep the doors open and help these guys out down here.”

“At the time, we had International Chimney, Graham (Manufacturing) and Genesee Le Roy Stone (planes) still in the hangar after Andy cleared out,” he recalled. “And I don’t have a place to go, either.”

Boshart said that Amedick spoke with then County Manager Charles Meyer, and came back with a proposal: “He says, ‘Give me an insurance policy for $25,000 and don’t worry about the rent; just keep the doors open.'"

So, that’s what he did.

“I would come in here like late at night, when International Chimney got done with whatever they were doing, and I’d clean the airplanes, drop the oil or whatever, and I would go back home,” Boshart said. “That was how we started. I had no intention of ever being a businessman.”

Nearly 40 years later, the company continues to thrive, said Tim Hens, Genesee County’s current highway superintendent who also is in charge of the airport.

“We host Jeff and Carol here at the airport as what is known in the aviation world as a limited fixed base operator,” Hens said. “They rent space from the county – and what they do, they do very well.

“They repair planes, they put avionics packages in the plane, do maintenance and stuff and they draw people in from all over the Northeast. They do a heck of a business and are really our key tenant out here.”

Boshart said the avionics industry – which includes all components of the aircraft’s communication system -- is changing at a rapid pace.

“We do a lot of the radio upgrades,” he said. “Right now, in the aviation career, that part of it is moving so fast. It’s like the year 2000 when you were trying to buy a computer. You didn't know whether to buy one on that day or wait three days because there was going to be a better computer out. That's where we are with avionics.”

He went on to say that many of the smaller planes and jets that use the Genesee County Airport have more equipment than commercial airliners.

“It's phenomenal. You almost don't need a pilot. As a matter of fact, we have what they call Autoland. Everything goes to heck, you push a button up top – a big red button -- and the airplane takes you to the airport and it lands.”

The county airport has made giant strides since the early days when it was founded by Gil Chapell in the early 1940’s. The Chapell family lived in a house on the grounds.

Boshart said he met Chapell in the mid-1960s when his family moved into the area from Ohio.

“My dad started, with a number of other people, the Akron airport,” he said. “And they had they had a little tailwheel aircraft that dad used to fly around. And so back in 1965, when we moved up here, we used to fly over here because my aunt lived just over the hill on State Street. And I got to meet Gil and his wife when I was a little kid -- they had the house down here.”

He remembers the Chapell’s farmhouse and a couple of hangars and a gas pump, and a small restaurant.

“That’s my first recollection of the place; it was it was a grass strip. Then, Gilbert built the old hangar that they tore down five or six years ago.”

The facility was known as Batavia Airport at that time until the county assumed ownership in 1964.

Over the years, it has been expanded from 200 to 264 acres. In 2005, the runway was extended from 4,400 feet to 5,500 feet to accommodate business jets.

The Federal Aviation Administration estimates there are 115,000 takeoffs and landings annually.

A pilot himself, Boshart said he used to have his own plane, but not anymore.

“I’m like Tim. I have a fishing boat,” he said.

Photo at top: Carol and Jeff Boshart with Tim Hens, right, at the Genesee County Airport's main hangar.


Some of the aircraft being worked on by Boshart Enterprises' technicians.


Submitted photo: A scene from days gone by of the old terminal and hangar at the airport.


Submitted photo: This photo from the 1950s hangs on the wall in the office of the main terminal. From left, woman not identified,Tim Willard, Harold Hale, Gil and Gloria Chapell.

Helicopter damaged, no injuries, after Mercy Flight makes hard landing at airport

By Howard B. Owens


There were no injuries reported after a Mercy Flight helicopter a hard landing in heavy fog at the Genesee County Airport on Wednesday night.

The Bell 429 was returning from Strong Memorial Hospital, according to the Sheriff's Office.

The helicopter sustained damage to the underside of the fuselage after it landed on the north side of the airport, just north of the flightline, between State Street Road and Bank Street Road.

The crew members were transported to an area hospital for evaluation as a precaution.

The FAA  will investigate the incident along with Sgt. Andrew Hale, Deputy Kyle Krzemien and Deputy Morgan Ewert.

Town of Batavia Fire and Mercy EMS responded to the scene.

Information and photos via Alecia Kaus/Video  News Service.




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