Again highlighting the summer with some of the best aviators on the planet, the Atlantic City Air Show moves from midweek to Friday for its 10th anniversary.
While some multifaceted entertainment events start slowly in their inaugural years and grow into blockbuster hits once word spreads and sponsorship grows, the Atlantic City Air Show is not among them.
The show’s success was immediate, drawing an estimated quarter-million spectators lining the Boardwalk and beaches in and around Atlantic City to see some of the most talented pilots, varied and vintage aircraft, and daring aeronautical feats anywhere.
That was summer 2003, and every summer since then the show was held on a Wednesday in part to lure tourists to the resort during a time of the week when they might not ordinarily be here. This year the show, dubbed “Thunder Over the Boardwalk,” is celebrating its 10th anniversary in prime time, moving to Friday, Aug. 17, and again ending a diversified event slate with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds’ F-16 Fighting Falcons flying a mix of solo and multi-plane formations. Estimates are that last year’s show drew about 800,000 spectators and this year’s could top a million.
“The beach shows are the ones that tend to draw more people because, if you think about it, in many cases people don’t even have to travel to get there,” says Steve Kapur, a 16-year pilot with the Geico Skytypers who perform in about a dozen air shows annually (creating giant billboards of smoke), several of which are at military air bases. “They just go outside, so you’ve got a lot of built-in viewership if you will — people vacationing already, enjoying the beaches and casinos and what not. And so [Atlantic City] would certainly be in the top third of the shows that we perform at from a spectator perspective. Shows at a base have more of a restricted access, if you will. But whether we’re flying for 60 people or 600,000, we’re excited just to be here.”
Sharing the limelight with those flying the aircraft (or jumping out of them as in the case of the U.S. Army Golden Knights, who return to initiate the festivities around 11am), are several of the aircraft themselves. The five-hour show features many classic civilian planes and jets, vintage military aircraft and specialized equipment like a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker military aerial refueling plane, a U.S. Navy Seahawk transport helicopter, and restored fighters from World War II, the Vietnam War, the Korean War and other overseas conflicts in which the United States was involved. Pilot Jim Beasley Jr., a co-founder of the U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight to honor the 50th anniversary of the USAF, will do two demonstrations (at 12:10 and 1:36pm) in his Supermarine Spitfire and P-51 Mustang. The Skytypers (scheduled to perform their synchronized and computer-aided skywriting routine around 12:35pm, following immediately by a race between a Geico propellor plane and its famed Miss Geico jet-powered speed boat) fly six restored WWII aircraft called SNJ-2s, of which precious few exist anywhere. The majority of the pilots on the 10-man, Long Island-based Skytyper team are former military pilots and current or retired commercial airline pilots, and several are also flight instructors.
“These aircrafts are all older than the guys flying them,” says Kapur, 57, who created and developed a webisode series called In-Formation that takes a behind-the-scenes look at life as an air-show performer. “They’ve been around for quite a while. Back in WWII they’d start training pilots on biplanes then put them in this aircraft, which is called an advanced trainer, before they starting flying actually fighter planes like the Mustang or Corsair [other single-engine Navy WWII fighters were the Bearcat, Hellcat and Wildcat]. They look a lot like the fighters of their day but they’re not quite as sleek — or what we call ‘slippery’ — and they’re not as fast but they’re more forgiving.
“An interesting thing about the East Coast that a lot of people may not realize is that there’s a lot of aviation history here [A.C.’s neighbor just to the west, Millville, was a primary WWII pilot training site for the P-47 Thunderbolt],” says Kapur. “Grumman is based on Long Island and became known for its Navy fighter aircraft, [Charles] Lindbergh took off from a field in Long Island when he made his historic flight to Paris [in May 1927], and up and down the East Coast there’s an awful lot of history.”
The Skytypers were formed primarily as a messaging service and were pioneered by WWII pilot Mort Arken, whose son Larry is the current commanding officer and flight leader. The team also includes current father and son members Bob and Ken Johansen, both flight instructors. During a typical routine, six planes fly in formation with the flight commander controlling a small computer that tells each pilot when to release and stop releasing smoke.
“Essentially each plane is serving as a sort of printing head on a giant dot-matrix printer,” says Kapur. “Since we started about 16 years ago we’ve actually come a couple generations of computers since then and the latest in data-linked radios. We can make letters as high as the Empire State Building and messages that can be six miles long and seen from about 15 miles away.
“[Air shows] are a lot of fun for us in that we really enjoy meeting so many different people [during pre-show meet-and-greets], and I’ll tell you the real thrill for us is kind of at both ends of the spectrum — the young kids who are really into it and the opportunity to meet World War II vets,” adds Kapur. “Meeting the guys who actually trained on these aircrafts is a thrill and an honor for us, and they love talking about flying with us.”
The Air Force Thunderbirds are in their 58th season doing air shows across the United States and Europe. Since 1953 they have flown in front of about 390 million people, performing awe-inspiring feats like the “Calypso Pass” and “Arrowhead Loop” in which planes fly as close as 18 inches to one another. The Thunderbirds are also first and foremost part of the United States Armed Forces and, if called upon, each F-16 Fighting Falcon can be made combat-ready in less than 72 hours. The Thunderbirds close out the A.C. Air Show’s schedule starting around 3pm.
The U.S. Army Golden Knights help kick off the show around 11am, leaping from planes and creating precise formations before landing on targets on the beach. Based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the Golden Knights are the U.S. Army’s only aerial demonstration unit, consisting of 90 men and women of the military. The team was formed in 1959 as the Strategic Air Corps (STRAC) Parachute team, adopting the Golden Knights moniker in 1962.
When: Friday, Aug. 17, 10:30am-3:30pm
How much: Free viewing from the beaches and Boardwalk. Premium public seating on the beach, featuring a lá carte food and beverage, is available by calling the Flightline Club at 813-2121.
Ocean City presents the 26th annual Ocean City Airport Festival on Saturday, Sept. 17, and then follows on Sunday, Sept. 18, with an Aerobatic Air Show off the Boardwalk.
This year’s Atlantic City “Thunder Over the Boardwalk” Air Show will tie into the series with seven outstanding bands performing Monday through Wednesday, Aug. 15-17, including about six hours of music beyond when the air show ends (around 3:30pm) Wednesday.
In its ninth year, The Atlantic City Thunder Over the Boardwalk Air Show will fill the city’s skylines with jets, stunt planes and parachuters on Wednesday, Aug. 17, all capped off by a performance from the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds precision flying team, which has become the air show’s steady headliner each year.
All you need to know about this year's air show, including parking information, post-concert info and the schedule for the big Aug. 25 air show.
The inclusion of the Brazilian flight team will also garner international attention to the Atlantic City Air Show and dignitaries and embassy officials from Brazil are planning to attend this year's event in Atlantic City.
The 2nd Annual Atlantic City Air Show, an event that could bring the biggest crowd Atlantic City has ever had, will be held on Wednesday, August 18, from 10am-4:30pm, on Atlantic City's beachfront. The focal point of the show will be at Florida Avenue and the Boardwalk, in front of the Peter Max mural. The feature of the show will be the U.S Air Force Thunderbirds, who will be the closing act, flying around 2:30pm. It is an all-military air show with a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter showing how they pick up someone in the ocean who is in distress. The variety of the aircraft and the skill of their pilots and crews is something to behold. Last year's show drew nearly 250,000 and with word of the show's quality spreading throughout New Jersey and surrounding states, the show is expected to bring close to a half-million spectators to Atlantic City. The show may be seen from Brigantine to Ocean City. The main action will be in front of the Boardwalk Hall. With the wide beach that has just been installed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, there is ample room to hold one million people on our beaches. The Atlantic...
Would you believe that the Third Annual Atlantic City Air Show will be held in just seven weeks? A year has passed by too quickly. This year's show will be held on Wednesday, August 31 from 11am-3pm. In just two years the Atlantic City Air Show has become the second-largest air show on the East Coast, surpassed only by the Ft. Lauderdale Air Show, which draws more than a million people over its two days. The AC show drew a record 400,000 people last year and may surpass that number next month. For those who think there's no reason to go this year because they saw it all last year, I am happy to inform you that 50 percent of the Atlantic City Air Show 2005 will be new to former viewers. Have you ever seen a stealth bomber? I did. One morning while walking on the Boardwalk, at Florida Avenue, I looked up in the sky and over Boardwalk Hall flew this gigantic airplane in the shape of a bat. I had a scary feeling before realizing what it was; then I was thrilled to have had the privilege of seeing it. Its altitude was quite low and gave me the opportunity...
THE SECOND ANNUAL Atlantic City Air show will be held on Wednesday, August 18 at 11am. The first Atlantic City Air Show, held in August 2003, was a resounding success. It was the second-largest military air show in the United States. It drew upwards of 200,000 people and it was a financial success. It is anticipated that this year's show will draw close to a half a million spectators. As sponsors of the event, the Atlantic City Regional Chamber of Commerce (ACRCOC) is looking for ways to raise the necessary funds to make this show bigger and better than last year's. They are currently seeking a name sponsor to step forward and put their corporate logo on the air show. It is anticipated that all of the Atlantic City casino companies will participate with contributions. Thanks to the fact that the beach is now 200 ft. wide, the ACRCOC is putting into effect a plan that will encourage many of the area's businesses to become a part of the sponsorship of the air show. There are two plans being proposed to potential sponsors. The spots are in a select area in front of or adjacent to the center of the air show's...
Okay. You and your family came to see the fabulous Thunder Over the Boardwalk Atlantic City Air Show. Now as the show finishes, you are wondering, “What should we do next?
Atlantic City has hosted Offshore Power Boat racing before with major events in 1988 and 1989 back when the Golden Nugget was the Trump Castle. Dave Patnaude, the director of the New Jersey Offshore Powerboat Racing Association and the president of the New Jersey Performance Powerboat Club has been working hard to bring the boats, some of which have reached speeds of 200mph, back to town. Now he has succeeded.
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