2005 Thunder Over the Boardwalk Airshow

On the Beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey

Wednesday August 31, 2005

Airshow report uploaded on October 15, 2005.

As of two and a half years ago, if you were to ask me why I would be going to Atlantic City for a day trip, I probably would have given you an answer like "to go see a performance by (insert big name comedian, music group, etc. here)."  An airshow would not have popped into my mind, since at the time, Atlantic City had not had an airshow for at least nine or ten years.  That all changed in August of 2003 when David Schultz Airshows helped put together the first airshow at Atlantic City that was held along the Boardwalk.  It was a very successful show that was once again repeated in 2004 with an even larger crowd (mainly because of the date of the show, more college students were able to come down to AC to see the show than in 2003).  Then came 2005, which followed on the 2003 show's footsteps, regarding when the show took place.  Yes, there was a big crowd, even with the threat of a washout, but once again, that demographic was in some ways, missing.

The weather for the last day of August was forecasted to be a washout for the entire Delaware Valley, mainly in part of the remnants of Hurricane Katrina.  Atlantic City did not see a drop of rain at all on Wednesday, but we did have very low clouds throughout the morning, finally lifting around noon.  Two performers that had been at Atlantic City in 2003 and 2004 were absent in 2005, namely the F-16 East Coast Demo Team and the F-14 Tomcat demonstration.  The Tomcat's absence was expected, since VF-101 had not flown any demonstrations at any airshows in 2005 and was not yet approved to fly a demonstration at NAS Oceana's airshow at that time.  Knowing that, I still had early plans to get to the Jersey Shore by 8 am, and did so without any problem.  The winds were blowing pretty bad, with gusts getting up to 30 or more knots.  Even if there were no clouds, there would be absolutely no chance that either the Golden Knights or the Black Daggers would be jumping.

The show was slated to start at 10:00 in the morning, but without a mass exit and a flag jump, that meant that the show would be pushed back at least forty-five minutes.  As in past years, the show was simulcasted on WOND (1400 AM) and featured an insanely large number of commercials in the most inappropriate parts of the airshow.  With a national anthem opening at about 10:53, it was quickly followed by a formation flyover of four F-16 Fighting Falcons from the home unit, the 177th Fighter Wing (New Jersey ANG).  Compared to last year's flyover, this year's formation was much looser, but flown as if it was a banana pass, and at a faster velocity than in 2004.  To make things more interesting, the lead F-16 was flown by Lt.Col. Richard Duckworth, who happened to be the airshow director of the 2003, 2004, and 2005 shows at Atlantic City (and an F-16 demo pilot out of Shaw AFB back in the late 90s!).  The Jersey Devils, who fly Block 25 F-16Cs, were slated to trade their F-16s and receive F-15s from Otis ANGB under the BRAC proposals, but as of now, they are still going to fly the F-16.  I'm waiting to see when they'll get upgraded airframes, since there has been some talk about reliability and the number of hours on the New Jersey Vipers' airframes.

As the four-ship exited the area, two of the aircraft broke formation, as the remaining two would remain in the show area for another part of the airshow.  They would join up with a KC-135E Stratotanker, which was the next aircraft to make a pass down the beach.  The Stratotanker was from the 108th Air Refueling Wing, also a part of the NJ ANG, but based out of McGuire AFB, which is closer to me than Atlantic City.  Unlike the last two years, where the KC-135 made its single pass down the beach with the boom stowed, it was extended this year, which was a nice treat.  It seems like the last couple of years I've been seeing a lot of KC-135 action, particular the guys from the 108th ARW, which I enjoy, mainly because the KC-135 is one of my favorite aircraft.  The Stratotanker went around to make one more pass, but this time was joined up with two of the F-16s from the 177th Fighter Wing.  Once again, the two F-16s flew off the wings of the KC-135, which had its boom extended for the pass.  As nice as it is, I still want to see one of the F-16s trailing off the boom of the KC-135.  I don't need a "real" refueling pass, a simulated one would do just fine.

After the KC-135 and F-16s left the area, the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center had the airspace with their Convair 580.  It was the second time I have seen the CV-580 fly (last time was at Atlantic City in 2004 and they only flew one pass with the aircraft).  This year, the FAA crew flew a total of three passes with the Convair - one straight and level, one in the dirty configuration, and a photo pass.  The FAA uses that specific Convair 580 as a testbed for all different electronics and electric systems before they are implemented in airliners and business jets.  The cockpit itself is practically all digital, which is a far cry from the analog instruments of aircraft dating prior to the 1980s.  The FAA's William J. Hughes Technical Center is located at Atlantic City International Airport, which was the staging point for all of the airshow participants, except for most of the local aircraft flybys.  Another one of the William J. Hughes' aircraft would be making a flyby later on in the day to fully round out their participation in the airshow.

Also based at KACY are an auxiliary unit of the Coast Guard, with HH-65 Dauphins.  At least two of the Dauphins went out to the Gulf Coast in support of Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, but we were still treated to two Dauphins putting on a simultaneous search and rescue demonstration.  I had doubts that this particular demonstration would happen because of the high winds and high surf, but it was still demonstrated, since most of the time these crews are trained for the absolute worst wind and surf conditions!  Atlantic City and Rotorfest share two of the best venues for Search & Rescue demonstrations, with Rotorfest being the best land-based SAR demo site because it is practically in front of you, with Atlantic City's SAR demo being in the water and showing a true SAR demo.  The Coast Guard crew handled a simulated rescue of a man overboard in rough conditions very easily, which really impressed me.  Like I said, these guys are trained to do their job in the worst of conditions, and airshow day seemed to be up in that alley.

The Vultures Formation Team had the next slot in the schedule.  The schedule had listed them to fly a missing man formation, and they did just that, with a slight modification.  The missing man was dedicated to two members of the Vultures who were killed in a tragic mid-air collision off the coast of Lewes, Delaware on July 10, 2005 during an airshow practice.  Involved in the collision were Ralph Morgan and Jay Blum, who flew an RV-8 and a LongEZ, respectively.  The Vultures flew their first airshow at Atlantic City in 2004 and the 2005 show marked the last time the remaining members of the Vultures would fly at airshows under the name, as it is retired out of respect of Jay and Ralph.  A five-plane formation was flown, with Frank Pullano Jr. flying his Varieze at the far left wing of the formation, doing the missing man along with another pilot (whose was in the outer right wing of the formation), whose name slips my memory.  Taps was played in the background to a very fitting tribute to those two fine aviators.

Following a short break in the action, it was time for the Air Force to step in.  The A-10 East Coast Demo Team out of Pope AFB had the first demo.  Captain Jeff Yost put on a decent performance that was plagued with three major problems - the haze, the fact that the A-10 is a quiet airplane, and the wind.  The last two factors forced him and practically every single other performer to fly at least a half mile away from the coastline (or so it seemed), so getting decent shots of any aircraft seemed next to impossible.  Having no boat at show center also helped with the problems, since referencing the show line was another factor that probably contributed with the show line being further out.  Atlantic City was only my second show site in 2005 that featured an A-10 demonstration in their performer lineup, which is surprising since in 2004 I went to six airshows that had A-10 demonstrations.

Stealing the airshow from the A-10 was the F-15 Eagle demonstration, featuring the folks from the West Coast Demo Team out of Eglin AFB.  This was Deuce's fourth airshow in New Jersey as a demonstration pilot, having flown both Millville shows in 2004 and 2005 and McGuire AFB's show back in June.  It's funny how I believe I have some pull in terms of where Air Combat Command demo teams are going to be performing, since Deuce flew all three major airshows in New Jersey in 2005!  For an opening pass, Deuce decided to fly a high speed pass from behind the crowd and pulling hard to the left to begin the performance with a four-point roll, similar to the opening he used at McGuire AFB (only this time he went from takeoff to the four-point roll).  Typical of an F-15 demo flown by Deuce, afterburners were in liberal usage throughout the performance.  After Deuce left the show area, there was supposed to be a Heritage Flight with Jim Beasley in his P-51D Mustang and Dale Snodgrass in his F-86 Sabre, but it never materialized because neither pilot was able to get his respective aircraft in the area because of the weather inland.

More flybys were on the agenda next, with a P-3C Orion being the first of the aircraft making a couple of passes over the water.  The particular P-3 was from VX-1, based out of NAS Patuxent River, Maryland (they were hosting an airshow the following weekend which I was supposed to attend, but cancelled because of gas prices).  I missed the first pass, but saw it as being a flat pass down the shore.  Luckily for me, the crew made two more passes - the second of which was another flat pass, but with the #4 engine shut down and the prop feathered, which is typical of P-3 crews since they typically shut down two engines to increase their endurance.  The last pass consisted of the bomb bay doors opened with a nice tip of the wings to the left and right.  It's a shame the P-3 isn't really showed off more at airshows, considering it is a very capable platform and does make for good demonstration material.  Besides, how often does one see a P-3 flying at any airshow in the United States?

Making a long-awaited return to an airshow in New Jersey for the first time in eighteen years was a demonstration by an AV-8B Harrier.  I don't remember it like I would remember other airshows, but the last time (to my knowledge) a Harrier flew at a New Jersey airshow was at McGuire AFB back in 1987.  The demo consisted of two high speed passes before performing some hovering over the Atlantic Ocean, transitioning back into flight mode and performing another high speed pass.  The pilot put the Harrier through another set of maneuvers while hovering before transitioning back into flight mode and performing another pass before exiting the show area and letting some helicopters show off for the crowd.

The first two helicopters were a Sikorsky S-76 and a Bell 407 from the New Jersey State Police.  The NJSP helicopters made two passes over the beach at about 500 feet off the ground.  As a side note, for those of you that aren't familiar with the New Jersey State Police, they have ranked as one of the most corrupt police forces in the country and have earned a reputation for racial profiling over the last many years.  I have gotten a number of nasty e-mails in the past several years from that comment, but to be honest, the profiling has stopped and the NJSP has rewritten their reputation as being one of the finest forces in the entire country.  I, myself, have experienced one of their racial profiling cases, as one of my friends was racially profiled when we were going up to Trenton several months before the AC airshow.  I'm not going to go into any details on what happened other than he, myself, and one other person were all in the same car and he was doing 10 mph over the speed limit on a  major highway and we were pulled over.  Two troopers surrounded our vehicle and the one trooper was VERY nice to me but was a total dick to my friend.  Luckily he only got a warning because I had to convince both of them that I would expose them and make a news story out of it (the story was never going to happen).  I also took note of the Atlantic City Police and the New Jersey State Police arresting a man for some sort of crime.  Being on the beach, my best guess would be that the crime or offense committed by the the party being arrested had to do with children, since there were plenty of them on the beach that particular day.  While off-topic, it's sad to see people who are willing to commit such crimes for their own personal pleasure and to disturb the peace of what was supposed to be a day to sit on the beach and watch one of the finest airshows in the country.  Back to the show... the third helicopter demonstration was from a CH-146 Griffon from 427 Squadron in Petawawa, Ontario.  The Griffon demonstration represented the first foreign military demonstration to perform at Atlantic City, and it appeared for at least 75% of their performance, they acted like the coastline was their show line, flying real close to the crowd and demonstrating all aspects of helicopter flight in the most dynamic Griffon demonstration I have ever seen, even though its primary role is Search and Rescue for the Canadian Armed Forces.

After the CH-146 left the show box, it was time for the flybys to continue, this time with the Air Force.  The first of which was the largest of three aircraft and the aircraft which traveled the least distance to the show site - the KC-10 Extender.  The crew from McGuire AFB's 305th Air Mobility Wing provided two passes with the Extender, one with the boom extended and the final pass with the boom stowed and the aircraft appearing in somewhat of a banana pass.  Following the KC-10 was a single T-1A Jayhawk from Columbus AFB in Mississippi.  The Jayhawk made a total of three passes, pushing at least 350 knots on each pass and showing off how quiet the Jayhawk is compared to other jets.  The third pass consisted of a photo pass, with the right wing slightly dipped, and this pass was also the closest to the crowd as he was not quite on top of the coastline.  There were supposed to be two Jayhawks in the show but the absence of one of the aircraft didn't hurt much, since it was the first time I had ever seen a T-1 in flight (aside from the one that departed Reading a couple of years back).  Following the T-1 was a T-38 Talon, also from Columbus AFB.  The T-38 made three passes, all of which at a high rate of speed, but not generating as much noise as a Talon typically puts out, which was a disappointment for me.  The only other time I had seen a T-38 in the air was at Willow Grove a few years back and the pilot made a high speed pass upon departure and put out a good deal of jet noise.

Then it was time for the aerobatic performers to shine at Atlantic City.  Michael Hunter, who has a Flight for Diabetes aerobatic program, was unable to fly at Atlantic City due to his aircraft being weathered in en route to the city.  However, he was attending the show and I did have a chance to meet him after the airshow.  The one performer I had wanted to see sometime in 2005 was actually in attendance at Atlantic City this year, and it was Kirby Chambliss.  Kirby flies an Edge 540 with the Red Bull sponsor, since he is a regular participant in the Red Bull Air Races and in the Red Bull aerobatic competitions held worldwide every year.  The only thing Kirby had going against him at Atlantic City was performing far from the coastline, but that did little justice to the kind of performance he put on that day.  Even with the winds blowing as hard as they were, Kirby put on the most jaw-dropping, "holy crap" aerobatic performance I had ever seen in a long time.  I won't go into detail about the performance but he is definitely one of the performers to see at an airshow and I am thinking of planning the 2006 airshow season around at least one of his show sites just to see him fly.

The next aircraft to make an appearance was a early model Boeing 727 operated by the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City.  The 727 is modified with winglets, just like the majority of the 727s that are still in service by private owners and cargo carriers.  It marked the first time since 2001 that I had seen a 727 in flight (the last time was an American Airlines 727-200 in the holding pattern for Philly International).  The 727 made a total of three passes, the first and third being clean passes down the coastline and the second pass being a dirty pass, all of which were flown about 200 feet above the rough surf, which made for a nice backdrop.  It was really nice to see a 727 flying, since the first time I ever went up in an airplane was in a 727.  After the 727 left, John Klatt flew the next-to-last performance of the day in the Air National Guard sponsored S-300.  I didn't have a chance to get his entire performance, namely because a friend of mine had referred an Atlantic City Press reporter over to me for an article about the airshow, and I kindly gave time to give the reporter accurate information about the airshow and who I am and such and why I wasn't in the ocean watching the show.  While he is not in the ranks as Kirby Chambliss, John Klatt still put on a great performance and I would definitely like to see him fly sometime in the near future. 

I had said that John Klatt was the next to last performer, since the Golden Knights and Black Daggers could not perform their afternoon jump because of the high winds.  The weather had also been a factor for no-shows by a pair of Connecticut ANG A-10 Warthogs and a C-5 Galaxy from Dover AFB, a C-130 Hercules from Willow Grove, along with the P-51, F-86, Michael Hunter's performance, and flybys at the beginning and end of the show by a Horizon blimp all because of the weather.  The HU-25 Guardian flyby was cancelled due to a Gulf Coast deployment because of Hurricane Katrina.  There was a good half hour break in the action, which provided me with time to hang out with some of my friends who were at the airshow, waiting for the Thunderbirds to take to the sky.  The Thunderbirds performed a modified high show, deleting their five card loop, the delta loop, and bomb burst out of the performance along with the opening pass, as it was flown as a typical low show opening.  It was also the first time in 2005 that I'd be seeing a full compliment of Thunderbird aircraft, since the team was without their right wing for all of May and June.  Their show this year wasn't as quite as good as it was in 2004 and with the recent incident in Chicago, the slot pilot was keeping his distance from the diamond for a good portion of the show.  It was a good way to end the show, and this year's show represented the worst of weather conditions I have ever worked with, especially with the wind blowing sand everywhere and the ocean mist fogging up the camera lens every ten seconds.  I will be back next year!

I would like to send a thank you to David Schultz, Gordon Bowman-Jones, Frank Pullano, Captain Joel "Deuce" Hemphill, and Lt.Col. Richard Duckworth for everything regarding this year's Atlantic City airshow.  I hope next year's show has no wind!

Military Demonstration Teams

  • USAF Thunderbirds
  • US Army Golden Knights
  • US Army SOC Black Daggers

Tentative Military Demonstrations

  • 177th Fighter Wing Flyby
  • A-10 Thunderbolt II East Coast Demo Team
  • AETC Flyby - Two T-1A Jayhawks and T-38 Talon
  • AV-8B Harrier Demonstration
  • C-5B Galaxy Flyby
  • C-130 Hercules Flyby
  • CH-146 Griffon Demonstration
  • Connecticuit ANG A-10 Warthog Flyby
  • F-15 Eagle West Coast Demo Team
  • HC-130H Hercules Flyby
  • KC-10 Extender Flyby
  • KC-135E Stratotanker Flyby
  • KC-135E & F-16 Refueling Pass
  • USCG Search and Rescue Demonstration (two HH-65s)

Civillian Demonstrations

  • Dale Snodgrass
  • Kirby Chambliss
  • Michael Hunter
  • John Klatt
  • NJSP S-76A+ Demonstration
  • Horizon Blimp
  • FAA Convair 580 Flyby
  • FAA Boeing 727-25C Flyby
  • Missing Man Flyby (The Vultures)

Participating Organizations

  • FAA Technical Center
  • David Schultz Airshows

Announcer: Gordon Bowman-Jones

Show Time: 10:00 AM - 4:30 PM

2005 Thunder Over the Boardwalk Airshow Home Page