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Wings Over Batavia

Air show organizers host thank-you celebration for volunteers

By Joanne Beck
pete zeiliff wings over batavia thank you at Eli Fish 2023
Pete Zeliff, co-chairman of the Wings Over Batavia Air Show, thanks volunteers and local agencies for their help during the 2023 air show that filled Genesee County Airport with activity and spectators day and night this past Labor Day weekend.
Photo by Howard Owens

Wings Over Batavia Air Show organizers soared one last time for the season to serve up more than $11,000 to local service organizations for their volunteer efforts during the event’s two-day activities at Genesee County Airport this past Labor Day weekend.

Event co-chairs Pete and Doreen Zeliff distributed $11,032.86 in proceeds to the following agencies for providing volunteers to help with parking, crowd control and food concession stands during the holiday weekend:

  • Genesee County ACORNS (Association for the Conservation of Recreational and Natural Spaces)
  • Batavia Lions Club
  • Batavia Ramparts
  • Crossroads House
  • Elba Class of 2024
  • Friends of the Rink
  • Genesee County Spartans
  • GO-Art!
  • Rotary Club of Batavia
  • Boy Scouts
  • YWCA of Genesee County

The Zeliffs hosted the agencies recently at Eli Fish in Batavia for some food and drink, and the monetary award distributions, and to thank them for their assistance during the newly resurrected, inaugural 2023 air show.

Photos by Howard Owens

wings over batavia thank you at Eli Fish 2023
Co-Chair Doreen Zeliff
wings over batavia thank you at Eli Fish 2023
wings over batavia thank you at Eli Fish 2023
wings over batavia thank you at Eli Fish 2023
wings over batavia thank you at Eli Fish 2023
wings over batavia thank you at Eli Fish 2023
wings over batavia thank you at Eli Fish 2023

More photos of Wings Over Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

Our photographers, Jim Burns, Philip Casper, and Steve Ognibene, took so many tremendous photos over Wings Over Batavia, that we decided to recap their coverage with this slideshow, which contains many previously unpublished photos.

For out complete coverage over Wings Over Batavia, click here.

The Batavian brought you the region's most complete and comprehensive coverage of Wings Over Batavia. If you appreciate our coverage, you can show your support by joining Early Access Pass.

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

Readers Photos: Wings Over Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
wings over Batavia Cheryl Netter
By Cheryl Netter.

Photos submitted today (Sunday) by readers of Wings Over Batavia.

wings over batavia by Kara Richenberg
By Kara Richenberg
by Kara Richenberg
By Kara Richenberg
By Mark Boylan
By Mark Boylan
By Mark Boylan
By Christine Crocker
By Christine Crocker

Photos from the ground at Wings Over Batavia

By Mike Pettinella
A10 team
Members of the U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II Demo Team in formation at Saturday's Wings Over Batavia air show are, from left, Sr. Airman Anwar Allen, Sr. Airman Toriano Decuir, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Ross, Staff Sgt. Cody Polzin, Tech. Sgt. Allen Brewer, Master Sgt. Bryen Sandoval, Capt. Jose Shuco Paiz and Capt. Lindsay "MAD" Johnson, the pilot. Photo by Phil Casper.
air force recruits
The air show served as the backdrop for a U.S. Air Force recruitment ceremony. Pledging their allegiance to serve in the military are, from left, Antonio Perez of Holley, Adele Feeley of Le Roy, Cole Swain of Pike, Andrew Waters of Middleport and Trevor Nicholson of Orchard Park. Photo by Phil Casper.
Rescue tank
Air show attendees were attracted to the police Rescue vehicle.
air store
The air show offered plenty of merchandise and souvenir items for sale.
food vendors
Jon Rolfe of Chili cooks the chicken kabobs at one of the several food vendor booths at the Wings OVer Batavia air show. Photos by Mike Pettinella.
Palermo family
Pete and Doreen Zeliff, left, air show organizers, with the Ricky Palermo family and friends. Submitted photo.

'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.”

Photos: The view of Wings Over Batavia from Oakfield

By Howard B. Owens
air show viewed from oakfield

While driving back to Batavia from Labor Daze in Oakfield on Saturday evening, the Wings Over Batavia air show was clearly visible from Route 63.

The Batavian will have ongoing coverage of the air show on Sunday.

air show viewed from oakfield
air show viewed from oakfield

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.

Skywriting: More photos from readers

By Howard B. Owens
photo by Jon Dayton
Photo by Jon Dayton
photo by Jon Dayton
Photo by Jon Dayton
Photo by Marge Alwardt
Photo by Marge Alwardt
Photo by Marcello Harris
Photo by Marcello Harris
Photo by Marcello Harris
Photo by Marcello Harris
Photo by Laurie Pocock
Photo by Laurie Pocock

Photos: Readers spot skywriting promoting Wings over Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
Tom Maier skywriting airshow
Photo taken in Rochester by Tom Maier.

Readers are spotting the skywriting taking place on this clear-blue day in WNY and sending in photos.  The skywriting is in advance of this weekend's Wings Over Batavia air show.

We received a couple of photos we can't publish because they were too small.  You can email photos to Please ensure they are at least 800 pixels wide.  If you don't know the size, send the largest file size you can.

For previous Wings Over Batavia coverage, click here.

Allison Luckenbach airshow
Photo by Allison Luckenbach.
frank capuano airshow
andre miller skywriting
Photo by Andre Miller
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.

County announces attendance safety measures for Wings Over Batavia

By Press Release
wings over batavia parking
The Wings Over Batavia parking plan.

Press release:

Genesee County officials are committed to ensuring a safe environment for the Wings Over Batavia Air Show at the Genesee County Airport, scheduled from 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2, and Sunday, Sept. 3. Wings Over Batavia, the independently owned and operated agency responsible for this event, is working closely with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office and Genesee County Emergency Management to ensure public safety remains at the forefront of preparations.

Comprehensive Safety Measures
Genesee County is committed to overseeing comprehensive safety measures. The Genesee County Sheriff's Office, New York State Troopers, and City of Batavia Police are coordinating efforts to help ensure public safety. Various emergency services providers will be present at the event to uphold public safety standards.

Emergency Services and Special Effects
Planned explosions, pyrotechnic displays, and fireworks will be handled exclusively by the event organizers. Attendees and residents are informed not to dial 911 for these planned activities, as emergency services will be on site.

Traffic Control
Leading up to and during the event on Sept. 2 and Sept. 3, State Street Road will be closed from West Saile Drive north to Batavia Elba Townline Road, and West Saile Drive will be closed from the Milton Cat building to the storage barns on the east side of the airport. Motorists are asked to pay attention to signs and flaggers, exercise extreme caution and be alert to changing conditions. Pedestrians must follow marked paths and signage.

Information and Guidelines
For further details about the show and other pertinent information, please visit:

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.

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