The awe-inspiring aspects of the Atlantic City Airshow have been numerous since its 2003 debut, from fly-bys of classic and specialized aircraft to parachutists and pilot acrobatics that leave hundreds of thousands of spectators wondering where the daring to even attempt such stunts came from.
What is likely the show’s single most incredible facet is an annual military presence that demonstrates the America’s Armed Forces’ stunning aeronautical capabilities. To realize that the kind of military might and maneuvering on display in Atlantic City is on call if ever needed comes as a major confidence booster to many, as well as a major source of national pride.
That is certainly no exception this year. Now, after a chaotic several months that saw last year’s airshow fall among the many pandemic-related cancellations, a heightened appreciation for those who remain on the ready regardless of the circumstances — military members as well as first-responders and front-line healthcare workers — are being honored in a show themed “A Salute to Those Who Serve.”
“New Jersey’s healthcare heroes demonstrate courage and compassion each and every day, but especially so in this pandemic year,” says Cathy Bennett, president of the New Jersey Hospital Association that is partnering with this year’s airshow. “I can’t think of a more fitting group of individuals to represent this year’s theme of service.”
The Atlantic City Airshow is New Jersey’s largest single-day event, and the largest midweek airshow in the nation, drawing an estimated 500,000 spectators annually. It takes an incredible coordination effort among many organizations to make it happen, according to Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce President Michael Chait, and with the residual effects of the pandemic still lingering, this year was even more of a challenge.
“I think, going back to the early spring, with people getting vaccinated, the event being outdoors on the beach and boardwalk, the feedback we were receiving from our partners was hopeful and optimistic,” Chait says. “We were getting that kind of positive feedback from the military teams, as well, so we said let’s start planning on it. That was back in March.”
The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are the show’s main attraction and, according to Chait, are debuting a new demonstration with the F-16 Fighting Falcons they pilot. Since the majority of their 2020 airshow season was cancelled, the additional time gave the Thunderbirds more free time to enhance their routine, their first new routine in nearly 40 years!
“We’ve seen it so often through the pandemic, that with great challenge comes great opportunity,” Chait says. “You’ve seen it as businesses reinvent themselves, and you’ll see it as the military has generated a lot more excitement in their routines during the downtime.”
The U.S. Air Force is also sending its F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team to the show. The F-22 Raptor is the Air Force’s premier fighter aircraft, combining stealth, long-range travel capacity, extreme maneuverability and integrated avionics. The plane represents, according to its manufacturer’s website (LockheedMartin.com), “an exponential leap in warfighting capabilities.”
The cost to build an F-22 Raptor is $150 million.
“This is brand new to the show,” Chait says. “The F-22 is absolutely incredible. We’ve never had anything like this in our show, and I doubt anybody has ever seen a fighter jet like this before.”
The United States Army Golden Knights parachute team will also return. Their performance consists of multiple jumpers exiting an aircraft from about 14,000 feet and forming a geometric shape, often with smoke canisters employed from each jumper for visual effect.
The Skytypers Air Show Team from presenting sponsor GEICO also returns. The team flies six WWII-era aircraft and performs a low-altitude precision demonstration that features maneuvers and tactics flown by the United States military. The team will also sky-type giant messages that can be seen from 15 miles in any direction.
“We’re absolutely excited to be back,” says GEICO Public Affairs Officer Brenda Little. “We’ve been part of the A.C. show for at least a decade, and not having it last year was a huge disappointment. When we first got involved, Atlantic City was going through some hard times. Being part of this show and watching the evolution and rejuvenation of the city and how it is bouncing back, has been such a thrill.”
Air Boss Dave Schultz, whose team is responsible for assembling the show talent and working with the Greater A.C. Chamber to coordinate scheduling, echoed Little’s sentiments.
“This will be the 18th edition of the Atlantic City show, and we’re happy to be back and proud to be part of it,” Schultz says. “For a lot of people this will be the first big opportunity to get out of the house and see a show since things started returning to normal, and this is a prime opportunity to do that.”
Go to Airshow.ACChamber.com for more.