Spectators “oohed” and “ahhed” as aircrafts performed dazzling aerobatic stunts over the beach at the 15th Annual Atlantic City Air Show on Wednesday, August 23. Observers on the boardwalk and beach, as well as boaters off the coast, looked on as World War II-era planes trailing white smoke crisscrossed with one another, and Army helicopters performed fast rope demos.
Finally, the headliners, United States Air Force Thunderbirds in their F-16 fighter jets, made high-speed passes overhead.
From Jet Skis to Jet Speed
Hosted by the Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, the air show this year drew an enormous crowd and was visible to an estimated 400,000 people in the general area, according to Chris Howard, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment and Development Authority, one of the event’s sponsors.
“I’m amazed by this every year,” Howard said, commenting on the vast array of aerial demos; which, in addition to the main events, feature parachute jumps, a Russian MiG fighter, and fly-bys from a U.S. Navy F-18 Super Hornet.
Though the sun peeked out only periodically on the mostly overcast day, the brightest spot at the air show was the Thunderbirds demonstration.
The red, white and blue F-16s flew in tight diamond formation, performed barrel rolls, and executed oncoming high-speed passes within feet of each other. The jets flew at roughly 500 miles per hour; spectators could see the fighters flash past before the sound of their roaring jet engines hit the beach.
Capt. Sara Harper, the Thunderbirds’ public affairs officer, said the six pilots were hand-picked combat veterans who served throughout the Middle East. To apply for a spot on the Thunderbirds, an Air Force pilot must log 750 flight hours, but Harper said each man on the current roster as over 1,000.
Don’t Try This at Home
“All of the maneuvers take a lot of concentration and trust between the pilots,” she said.
Harper added that she hoped the demonstration inspired all those on the ground.
“We hope they are proud of the military and the United States Air Force, and we hope we represent the men and women of the Air Force well,” she said.
The annual air show attracts spectators from well outside of the South Jersey area.
Frank and Patricia Sarvas came from Reading, Pennsylvania to see Rob Holland in his specially designed MSX stunt plane.
“He does some incredible stuff,” Frank said.
“We come a lot,” Patricia added, noting that this was their seventh trip to the Atlantic City Air Show.
Organizing an air show as big as Atlantic City’s is a significant undertaking; one that, of course, involves substantial collaboration between the sponsors and the chamber, Howard, the CRDA director said. In fact, they’re already planning for next year’s event.
“This doesn’t happen without a massive effort on behalf of all agencies and companies,” he said. “It’s really a testament to the Atlantic City community.”