Atlantic City, NJ Thunder over the Boardwalk Air Show 2014
Grab the kids, grab the cooler, grab the beach blanket, chairs and umbrella, and let’s head to the beach. It’s time for the twelfth annual Atlantic City, NJ “Thunder over the Boardwalk” Air Show; a mid-week, family fun, non-stop flying event.
This year’s show kicked off with its fourth annual Monday evening boardwalk parade and salute to America’s Veterans. A Charlie Daniels beach concert and laser-light show followed the parade. The Wednesday air show opened with the traditional fly-by of banner-towing planes. For regular shore goers, these planes are a familiar sight as they regularly fly up and down the beach advertising local businesses. Unfortunately, early clouds prevented the U.S. Army Golden Knights from picking up their ground target forcing them to cancel their show-opening jump to the National Anthem. However, the skies did clear later in the afternoon for their mass exit. With each member of the Army’s parachute team hitting the beach from 12,000 feet- eleven in all- the crowed beach welled with a sense of pride and patriotism, erupting into rousing emotional cheers.
It was a step back to World War II when, from behind the crowd came the distinctive sound of a Merlin engine, when Andrew McKenna roared to show center in his P-51. Pushing the Mustang to its limits, Andrew raced from one end of the show box to the other as if patrolling the skies over war torn Germany. Not to be outdone, Jim Beasley Jr. in his Spitfire demonstrated to the crowd what it looked like over the skies of London during the Battle of Britain. Earlier in the show Beasley had displayed his “Guantanamo Bay” T-6. It was a photographer’s delight to witness such well preserved and beautifully restored warbirds.
Air Boss David Schultz and his team kept the waves of planes rolling along when he introduced a youthful local New Jersey resident, Jason Flood in his Pitts S1S. Jason delighted the crowd as he snapped and rolled his way across the ocean blue sky. Following Jason was the Warrior Aviation Demonstration in their black Vandy 1 L-39. Warrior Aviation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit [pending]organization dedicated to providing opportunities for our nation’s Wounded Warriors and their families.
Another familiar sight at the shore is the constant and vigilant patrol by the U.S. Coast Guard. Each year this crowd favorite is invited to demonstrate what they do best- Search & Rescue. Two MH-65 Dolphin helicopters whirled in from the left to show center. Just fifteen feet above the water, they deployed and then recovered their rescue swimmers. With a pedal push to the left, they departed low level to an appreciative and enthusiastic audience.
About halfway through the show it was all helicopters starting with Jack Kelly in his 1951 Bell 47-D1. The locals showed their gratitude when Atlantic City’s own Atlanticare medical helo showed its stuff and
everyone was up and waving when Philadelphia’s Channel 6 News Chopper flew by.
All show aircraft were based at and flying from Atlantic City International Airport which is also home to the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center. The tech center serves as the FAA’s national scientific test base for research and development, test and evaluation for air traffic control, communications, navigation, airports and aircraft safety. They were represented in the air show by two of their several aircraft, a tandem flight of Convairs.
Even with limited military air show participation this year, Schultz Air Shows was able to procure the U.S.M.C. AV-8B Harrier II demonstration. Blasting in from behind the crowd and rocking the Atlantic City skyline, the Harrier made multiple high-speed passes before coming to a hover in front of the crowd. Working his vectoring throttles, the jet descended low enough to blow foam off the ocean surface before departing in a plume of hot exhaust.
The kids dropped their sand shovels and buckets, swimmers stopped riding the waves and those seeking shade came out from under their umbrellas when Rob Holland took center stage. With smoke-on the World Unlimited Aerobatic Champion wowed the crowd as he flipped, twirled and somersaulted through the air. Finishing out his routine, everyone held their breath when Rob skimmed the water at maximum speed in his high-performance MX-2 aerobatic plane. Rob really stole the show!
Before the T-Birds took to their F-16s, precision formation flying was provided by the Raiders Demonstration Team and GEICO Skytypers. The Raiders, located at nearby Medford, NJ, performed in their four Yak-15s. The Skytypers and their six T-6s are based at Republic Field Long Island, NY. Following their performance, the solos (#5 and #6) positioned themselves just above the GEICO speedboat as the three raced the length of the show line.
Closing out and headlining the show as usual, the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds were back in the air and, over the beach and boardwalk. An estimated 750,000 spectators, encompassing five beach communities, eagerly waited to welcome the red, white and blue jets back to Atlantic City. The diamond came from behind the crowd, while the solos initiated their routine from the right and left. Low clouds forced the team to fly a flat show but their performance still provided the crowd with plenty of excitement with two sneak passes, a low bomb-burst and several “smoke-on” delta passes along the beach before returning to Atlantic City International Airport.
Don’t go anywhere, the show’s not over. Following the day’s flying, spectators were welcome to stay at the beach and enjoy the sounds from the ‘60’s band, The Rascals.
For the past few years, Atlantic City has experienced increased industry competition and financial pressures. The resort is continuing to develop and redefine its entertainment mix. The city’s chamber of commerce touts the air show is an important ingredient in that process. David Schultz Air Shows says the future looks promising and is already working on next year’s show. Always set for the middle of August and featuring the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds, however next year will transition to May with the U.S.N. Blue Angels as the main event plus some added surprises in the planning.
Article by Daniel O. Myers
Photos by Daniel O. Myers except where noted.