Practice is essential for the pilots performing in the Atlantic City Airshow to ensure they’re prepared for the intricate maneuvers the crowds will see Friday.

But for the average spectator, airshow practice — which takes place from about 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today — is also a way for people to see nearly the entire show a day early without having to fight massive crowds and traffic jams in the city.

This year’s show is expected to be especially crowded, since it is the first taking place on a Friday rather than the traditional midweek date. The change was made to accomodate the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds’ schedule.

Practice day this year will also provide a group of youngsters with a unique opportunity for some special treatment before the actual show. For the first time in the airshow’s 10-year history, children from Make-A-Wish New Jersey will be able to meet with the pilots of the Black Diamond Jet Team. They will also get to watch the practice with their families from a private VIP viewing area at The Pier Shops at Caesars.

About a dozen children from Atlantic and Cape May counties who expressed an interest in aviation will take part in the day. The Black Diamond Jet Team has dedicated its 2012 season on the North American airshow circuit to Make-A-Wish.

The team works with local chapters at each airshow to provide a special experience to Make-A-Wish children across the country, said Lindsey Pritzlaff, communications director at Make-A-Wish New Jersey.

Make-A-Wish grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. The children who will take part in today’s event have already had their main wishes granted, but indicated on a survey that they had an interest in an event such as an airshow.

Elisa Monroe, director of events for the Greater Atlantic City Chamber, said the chamber, which organizes the airshow, had originally hoped to accommodate the children on the day of the show, but when that wasn’t possible plans were made for the practice day.

“It’s just a really nice thing that we’re able to help make these kids’ wishes come true,” Monroe said.

The Black Diamond Jet Team, which is scheduled to practice shortly after 1 p.m. today, will include a signature maneuver known as the Make-A-Wish roll in its performance. The move is dedicated to all Make-A-Wish children.

Those who come to Atlantic City to view today’s practice will be able to see at least 70 percent of the show. However, there will not be any loudspeaker announcement of the acts as there is the day of the show, organizers said.

The show is unique because it’s one of a few that take place over the ocean. That means that pilots look to piers and boats stationed in the water to keep their bearings as they perform, making the practice round especially important. The acts that don’t participate are those that perform more basic fly-bys.

One act that will not be seen during practice is the surprise fly-by scheduled for 2:33 p.m. Friday, airshow boss David Schultz has said. In recent years, the show has scheduled a surprise, unlisted act for the day of the show.

Contact Jennifer Bogdan:

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