Atlantic City Airshow 2023 “A Salute to Those Who Serve”

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Article by Daniel O. Myers, Photos by Gary Driscoll

For aviation photographers, arrival day offers an excellent opportunity to capture some impressive pictures from both inside and outside the airport’s grounds.

Because the Atlantic City Beach and Boardwalk Air Show is a “remote” venue, participating aircraft are parked for staging at the nearby Atlantic City International Airport. In the spring of 2008, the South Jersey Transportation Authority completed construction of a 1,400-space, six-story parking garage at the airport. Perched from the upper level, a cadre of photo-takers were well positioned to capture digital images of the participating aircraft.

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Arrivals
First to arrive, was the U.S. Golden Knight’s De Havilland Dash 8 (C-147A). Right behind, several HH-60s landed and taxied to their parking spots. These NJ Army National Guard whirlybirds were scheduled to demonstrate in the show, as they have traditionally done for the past ten years. Soon after were the show’s high-performance single-jet demo, two Harriers from VMFA-231- MCAS Cherry Point, NC and finally, two heavy aircraft. The first was New Jersey’s own 108th ARW KC-135R from nearby McGuire AFB, NJ. The tanker was adorned with the Princeton Tiger logo, a decal applied by the 141st Air Refueling “Tiger” Squadron. Next was a German Air Force (GAF) A400M “Atlas.”

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The A400M was launched in May 2003, responding to the combined needs of seven European Nations (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the UK) with Malaysia joining in 2005. The A400M wings are manufactured in the UK, the fuselage in Germany, with final assembly taking place in Spain. Since active service began, the “Atlas” has supported humanitarian and disaster relief operations around the world. The aircraft can often be seen flying into Dulles Airport, VA transporting VIPs.

The Show
2023 marked the 20th anniversary for the annual mid-week show. The Golden Knights opened with their American flag and National Anthem leap, before returning later in the afternoon for their mass-exit jump.

Since its inception, the load roar from four NJ ANG 177th FW F-16s, flying in tight formation, have brought high-performance excitement to the show’s opening. On July 8, 2023, the 306th FS joined the NJ ANG 177th FW as part of the USAF “Total Force Integration” effort. This merger represented the 10th and final fighter squadron to associate with a Guard or Reserve Wing under Air Combat Command’s restructuring objective. Assigning 306th active-duty personnel to the Guard’s 177th, bolsters the wing’s combat readiness by gaining more experienced fighter pilots, as well as supporting increased maintenance requirements. In this relationship, called “Active Association,” the Active-duty Air Force provides personnel while the host Guard or Reserve Wing supplies the equipment.

Following their high-speed passes and formation breaks, the F-16s joined on a NJ ANG 108th ARW KC-135R. The Stratotanker (Bu # 00366) began service with the USAF in 1957, served thirty-two years with the 108th Wing, accomplishing thousands of sorties in support of global aerial-refueling missions. The tanker is slated to be retired in September 2023 as part of the USAF KC-135 divestment program.

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For twenty years, Schultz Air Shows has made certain to showcase local civilian and military aircraft. This year’s flybys included local; news, medical and police helicopters, along with a Dover AFB 436t AMW C-5M Super Galaxy and McGuire AFB 514th AMW C-17A Globemaster III. It has also been an annual Schultz tradition to schedule a “surprise” act. This year was no exception, when the German Air Force’s (GAF) ATW 62 squadron A400M performed.

On the outside, the aircraft is equipped with a visibly extended refueling boom on the left side above the cockpit. On the inside, is a modified cockpit similar to the Airbus A380 but with a heads-up display. The A400M can carry and deliver strategic loads of trucks, armored vehicles or helicopters, in its cargo bay, to tactical locations with small and unprepared airstrips or by air-drop. After making several passes along the beachfront, the aircratf’s last maneuver was aimed directly towards the spectators. Pushing up in a steep climb to two-thousand feet, the pilots demonstrated how the A400M can take-off from front-line bases or airstrips composed of grass or sand, after delivering paratroopers or cargo pallets.

Another twenty-year favorite at Atlantic City is the U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue Demonstration. In tandem, two MH-65E Dolphin helicopters hovered low over the ocean to first deploy, then returned to retrieve their rescue swimmers.

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Throughout the day, exciting civilian acts performed aerial aerobatics . Perhaps the most interesting was Kyle Fowler in his Long EZ. The 920-pound tandem-seat Long EZ has a unique delta wing canard design. This small airplane has an impressive range of 1,000 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 160 knots.

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Two slick 80th FTW T-38C Talons whizzed by the crowd. These training jets are part of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) Program located at Sheppard Air Force Base, TX. Established in 1978, ENJJPT is the world’s only multi-nationally flying training program chartered to produce combat pilots for NATO. The modern military excitement then continued with a USMC AV-8B Harrier II demo. After making several high-speed passes, the jump-jet created clouds of water vapor, at show center, hovering near the ocean’s surface.

WWII vets were saluted when Tom Duffy in his Millville, NJ based B-25J Mitchell “Take Off Time” flew low-level past the admirers. On the third pass, at show center, Duffy opened the B-25J’s bomb bay doors and dropped a payload of watermelons into the ocean below.

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The WWII salute continued when Jim Beasley Jr. and Ed Shipley flying a tight-tandem formation in their P-51 Mustangs. With Beasley leading and Shipley precisely shadowing, for ten minutes, the two never wavered, flying as a mirror image. They stole the show!

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The headlining USAF Thunderbirds finished the afternoon with a performance that included multiple afterburner formations and several sneak passes. Their red, white and blue F-16s glistened against the backdrop of blue skies above and the ocean below.

This annual event is seen by an estimated four-hundred-thousand viewers along four miles of beach front. It is one of the longest air show crowd-lines in the country!

Next year’s show is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday August 16 -17, 2024.

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