OCEAN CITY — A blue sky speckled with cotton-candy clouds was the backdrop Sunday for some of the most intimidating and nimble aircraft in the world flying along Ocean City’s coast.
“They’re cool. A little loud,” said 9-year-old William Yocum, of Devon, Pa., who proudly showed digital pictures of the airplanes to his parents.
The city’s annual Boardwalk Aerobatic Air Show brought together F-16s, an F-18, aerobatics planes and even a red-and-white bi-plane as thousands packed the beaches and Boardwalk between Sixth and 14th streets.
The air show had a distinct local flavor.
The New Jersey National Guard’s 177th Fighter Wing, based in Egg Harbor Township, flew four F-16s over the ocean, their engines reverberating in thousands of eardrums a full second after they passed.
Another pilot, Lt. Cmdr. Benjamin Charles, who flew an F-18 Super Hornet Jet, graduated from Ocean City High School in 1995. His parents, Don and Jane Charles, still live in Ocean City.
The U.S. Coast Guard in Atlantic City demonstrated a water rescue from a MH-65 Dauphin helicopter.
And then there was a Pitts Special bi-plane piloted by 21-year-old Jason Flood, of Gloucester County.
Flood nearly died in August 2011 when a banner plane he was flying crashed in the Scullville section of Egg Harbor Township.
He had 11 surgeries in four days to repair shattered legs, broken ribs and damaged internal organs. He was in an induced coma for three weeks, and at one point doctors could not say if he would walk again.
Despite the horrific injuries, Flood returned to air shows and competitive flying this year.
His crash only 13 months ago, Flood spun hammerhead turns Sunday, and flipped and rolled his airplane that — from a distance — looked like a plastic toy spinning in the wind.
Before the air show, Flood acknowledged his accident could have left him wary to return to aerobatics that are even scary to watch from the safety of the ground.
But he has no memory of the crash.
“I can’t run through the events that happened. I see the pictures, but I don’t remember the events prior, so I can’t be scared,” he said. “Maybe if I had more of a memory, maybe if I did I’d be a little more hesitant.”
“I guess it wasn’t my time to go,” he said. “There’s something out there I must have to complete in life.”
Flood, a full-time college student, plans to get his associates degree in aviation technology this year and then his bachelor’s.
“Now I’m back to work and trying to get back my life again,” he said. “With my back being fused with rods and screws, I get tired and sore late in the evening, and my feet hurt from standing too long now,” he said.
He added, “Here are my legs. I don’t have a prosthetic. I’m not an amputee. It was a miracle.”
Throughout the afternoon show, a flight show announcer crooned into a microphone that was played on loudspeakers along the Boardwalk.
When he described the details of Flood’s small plane, including its thin canvas covering, the announcer said, “An airplane is a thousand fragile pieces that, put together, are a strong aircraft.”
The crowd may not have known that statement could apply to Flood himself.
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