A new perspective on a Memorial Day tradition: Here's what it's like to fly over New York in a WWII airplane

ABC News was invited to experience the ride with the Geico Skytypers.

May 27, 2019, 11:19 AM

One Memorial Day tradition is taking flight in cities and towns across the US this weekend: Air shows.

On May 23, ABC News had the chance to ride along with the Geico Skytypers for the Bethpage Air Show on Long Island in a SNJ-2 plane, also known as a T-6 Texan.

Five planes, including a C-47 "Gooney Bird," were part of the flyby. All were built in the early 1940s and used as advanced trainers for pilots during WWII. The seats of these tandem air crafts are equipped with a stick and rudder pedals to control the plane.

PHOTO: These rudder pedals are used to steer the T-6 Texan plane.
These rudder pedals are used to steer the T-6 Texan plane.
Lucie McCormick/ABC News

As the Skytypers rumbled down the runway, chatter about full fuel-tanks and the flight plan could be heard on the headsets. One after another, once a rotation speed of around 80 mph was achieved, the planes became airborne, joining each other in the sky.

With the canopy open for take-off, wind rushed through the plane and the fleet headed toward lower Manhattan.

The 80-year-old planes flew in loops around the Statue of Liberty and past One World Trade Center, the pilots communicating back and forth to determine their formation. One World Trade, turn left and loop around the Statue, fly back toward the Verrazzano bridge, turn around and head towards One World Trade, and again.

PHOTO: A C-47, aka Gooney Bird, was also part of the show.
A C-47, aka Gooney Bird, was also part of the show.
Lucie McCormick/ABC News

In the final lap, the team showed off what they’re named for: Skytyping. According to the pilots, skytyping is when a group of planes fly as a unit with a lead pilot controlling a smoke apparatus attached to each plane. As they fly, the lead pilot’s tablet sends a radio signal to each plane causing a puff of smoke to be released at a designated moment, ultimately forming words in the sky.

Former Air Force squadron commander Mike Brockey, a pilot on one of the T-6 Texans, said “the goal of the Skytypers is to hopefully generate interest in aviation and pay tribute to our greatest generation in flying those WWII planes” as they give performances up and down the East Coast.

After drawing a series of dashes, the pilots gave one another the go-ahead and the convoy zoomed to a new formation, turning back toward Long Island and their hangar in Farmingdale.

To see more visuals, check out the video on ABC News' "On Location."

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