2003 Atlantic City Airshow

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Airshow report written on August 27, 2003.

For the first time in a very long time, an airshow had taken place in the city of Atlantic City, New Jersey. The last airshow that Atlantic City hosted was back in 1994, but that did not feature a jet team. There was an airshow in 1992 that featured the USAF Thunderbirds, as well as the Italian Frecce Tricolori. However, it had been over 90 years since there was an airshow along the Boardwalk. Think about it for a second - the last time there was an airshow on the Atlantic City Boardwalk was when William Howard Taft was President (1909-1913)! This year's airshow was held along the Boardwalk, as having the airshow at Atlantic City International Airport/Pomona caused a major problem with security.

Since this was a beach show, several disadvantages were immediately thrown into the picture - there were no static displays and you could not see any takeoffs and landings. However, the added advantage would be any displays in the water. The airshow was simulcast on the radio on 1400 AM, which was nice, but I would have done away with the commercials. Some pre-airshow activities included a Horizon blimp flying over the beach (there was also an Aquafina blimp at Bader Field, but he didn't fly over the beach), and Jim Beasley flying the P-51D Mustang Bald Eagle with a reporter from WPVI-TV in Philadelphia.


The Golden Knights opened the show with a flag jump. As soon as the first jumper landed and grabbed the mike, the rest of the team came down and did a mass jump. Being right against where the Golden Knights landed, I thought this was an added advantage to watching their performance. The Golden Knights seem to always put on a great show, no matter where they're performing. After the Golden Knights, the host unit, the 177th Fighter Wing (NJ ANG), put up four of their F-16 Fighting Falcons for a flyby. This was a standard formation flyby with one exception: it was an afterburner flyby. As they left, the 108th Air Refueling Wing (NJ ANG) out of McGuire AFB brought a KC-135E Stratotanker for a clean, boom up pass. As he departed, a KC-10 Extender from the 514th Air Mobility Wing, also out of McGuire, made one pass in the clean configuration. As he left, a C-141B Starlifter from the same unit performed a single flyby. The Starlifter actually came by in the dirty configuration. As the C-141 left, the KC-135 came back around with its boom down and with two of the F-16s hanging off its wings for a refueling pass. I wasn't impressed with this pass, as I was hoping to see one of the F-16s actually hanging off the boom.

As they left, the KC-10 came back around and made a flyby with its boom extended. As he left, Jim Beasley and Ed Shipley came by in the P-51D Mustangs Bald Eagle and Frenesi to fly the Horsemen aerobatic performance. I especially like this performance over single-ship P-51 aerobatic performances and I hope to see it once again at Willow Grove in a couple weeks. As he left, Captain Ed Casey began his performance in the F-16. The demonstration wasn't bad at all, with the exception that it was cut short because of a severe bird strike to the canopy. While he was in the air, the F-15 Eagle that was being flown by Captain Bret Anderson formed up with Capt. Casey to check out the damage. After Capt. Anderson broke formation and mentioned that the damage was subjected to the underside of the F-16, he broke formation to join the A-10 and two P-51s for the Heritage Flight. I should also mention that Capt. Casey landed safely at Atlantic City International.

As I had mentioned, the Heritage Flight was next. This was a rather unique Heritage Flight as it was a diamond formation, with the P-51s flying lead (Bald Eagle) and slot (Frenesi) and the A-10 on the right wing and the F-15 flying the left wing. They performed four passes total, with the final pass being a modern aircraft split from in front of the crowd. Both Mustangs stayed in formation as they exited the show area. As the Heritage Flight concluded, it was time for Capt. Anderson to begin his performance in the F-15. It seemed like this F-15 demonstration was a little less tame than the one he flew at Stewart. As he exited the show area, the A-10 demonstration was up next. Captain Matthew Kouchoukos flew this demonstration and it seemed much better than I had anticipated. What made this demonstration better was the added final pass that included Capt. Kouchoukos dipping the wings of the A-10 like he was waving good-bye.

After the A-10 demonstration, it was time for the EC-130E Compass Call to make its flyby. It was a flyby, and it was a C-130 by heart, but it wasn't an EC-130E. It actually looked more like a regular C-130 Hercules than an EC-130. EC-130s usually have a lot of bumps all over the fuselage and tail and this didn't have it. As the Hercules left the area, there were several minutes before the Thunderbirds took the stage. The Thunderbirds flew under an overcast sky, whose ceiling was at least 8,000 feet. Somehow, this was enough for them to fly their high show. Had the Blue Angels been performing, I bet they would have flown their low show. I was once again impressed with the Thunderbirds' performance, but their sneak pass seemed a little further away than the ones at Dayton and also much slower, since they had to perform with all of the casinos behind the show area. I think they also screwed up on the dirty overtake. However, the bomb burst was performed perfectly, but with only three aircraft, as the one that was to head towards the crowd was excluded. I later found out this was because of safety reasons.


After the Thunderbirds flew, it was time for the Coast Guard to fly their Search and Rescue demonstration. There was to be an HC-130J Hercules in the demonstration but he didn't make it. The HU-25B Guardian showed up, but could have been easily identified as an airliner. Performing the actual search and rescue portion of the show were a pair of HH-65B Dauphins from CGAS Atlantic City. I have seen SAR demos in the past but the one at Atlantic City was the best I have ever seen. Both Dauphins performed a simultaneous SAR demo about 1,000 feet from the shoreline. It was nice to see an actual SAR demo performed in the ocean rather than on land as it makes it even more realistic. As the demonstration concluded, both Dauphins took a bow and exited the show area. After a short break in the action, the F-14 Tomcat took the stage. I found this performance to be a little unique for Tomcat demonstrations because instead of the usual touch-and-go at other show sites, he performed a wave-off with a dirty double Immelman. I have never seen that performed before in any aircraft in my entire life!

After the F-14 left, it was time for the Connecticut ANG to perform a flyby with two of their A-10 Warthogs. This was a rather tight formation and they had made only one pass and departed before Ed Shipley could come in for a solo performance. Ed Shipley flew his F-86 Sabre in an aerobatic performance and while it wasn't the best F-86 aerobatic performance ever, it was very nice. I guess I'm a little partial to seeing Dale Snodgrass fly the Sabre more aggressively. I'll give it to Shipley for having a beautiful paint job on his F-86. He should also seriously consider getting a smoke system installed. The show ended with a flyby by the Collings Foundation's B-17G Flying Fortress Nine-0-Nine. He made two passes down the beach. I was actually thinking he would make only one pass to close the show, but hey, two is better than one! It wasn't a bad show and it was lacking in many respects, but it was a great start to what will be a yearly event in Atlantic City!

I know I neglected to mention weather and such throughout the report, but I'll include all the other minor details here - there were no signs at Bader Field for parking when we got there (8:00 in the morning), the weather cleared somewhat for the Golden Knights to jump from 12,500 feet - but it had clouded up because of an approaching storm (the southern part actually broke apart before reaching the shore and didn't give us any rain, but gave us an overcast sky). When we left, it was clear coming west into more urbanized parts of New Jersey (namely Berlin, Voorhees and Marlton). I thought traffic coming out of Atlantic City seemed to be the usual congestion you'd find anywhere along the casinos and such. I didn't see anyone selling programs and I did get an ice cream sandwich for a buck! Someone was selling airshow t-shirts for $5... wish I had gotten one but oh well. I know I left out David Schultz on the report so I'll include his name here. David Schultz Airshows provided most of the coordination with assistance in the airboss area. To me, it didn't seem like it was his show, per se. Yes, his name was attached to it, but it was the work of the 177th Fighter Wing that brought in all of the military flybys and demonstrations that this show had.

I would like to give Rich Kolasa a big thank you for providing me with transportation to the show. I am able to drive around, but since I had gotten jaw surgery done almost two weeks prior to the show, I probably would have fallen victim to an accident of some sort. My original plan had fell through (yet again!) and I had a backup plan to go with my brother-in-law, but Rich was nice enough to go a little bit out of the way to give me a hand (and get a tour of my hometown!). Thanks a bunch Rich! I do have to repay you for the ride... somehow.

Overall Score: 9.25


What Made Atlantic City's Airshow Unique

Demonstration Teams

Tentative Military Demonstrations

Civillian Demonstrations

Participating Organizations

Announcer: Gordon Bowman-Jones on AM 1400. Bring a portable radio with you.

Show Time: 11:00 AM - approximately 3:00 PM

Location of Show Center: Between Ocean One Pier and Boardwalk Hall (Caesars and Trump Plaza casinos, according to a map)

2003 Atlantic City Airshow Website