Atlantic City Airshow organizers are scrambling to accommodate longtime headliner the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds after the stunt squadron released a demo schedule that doesn’t include the resort for the first time in a decade.
“I know the demand on their schedule is certainly (high), so I’d say it’s a scheduling issue based on demand,” Greater Atlantic City Chamber President Joe Kelly said Thursday. “We’ve been proud to have them here and have it be as successful as it has been in the past.”
Of a combined 64 working weekends scheduled next year, the Thunderbirds and their counterpart the U.S. Navy Blue Angels are revisiting only 25 of the places where they performed this year, according to lists posted to their websites earlier this week.
That’s how airshows nationwide — and in Canada — find out whether the groups can accommodate dates submitted for consideration at least 18 months prior, Kelly said. He said the midweek dates submitted by Atlantic City were not approved.
The Thunderbirds, however, have performed in Atlantic City every year since the resort revived its airshow in 2003. And they’ve been key to attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators to the event, Kelly and others have said.
So key, in fact, that it’s possible organizers could move the event to get the Thunderbirds back.
Their schedule has three open weekends in April — not August, when the Atlantic City event normally happens.
When asked about doing the show earlier, Kelly said, “Nothing’s off the table,” but he deferred further comment until he meets with the Chamber’s event partners in early January.
The Blue Angels appear to be booked solid next year. They’re not a consistent component of the Atlantic City lineup, but they did a surprise fly-by last summer.
In a departure from its typical midweek scheduling, the 2012 show was held on a Friday. Immediately afterward, however, organizers pledged to return to a weekday performance — a way to maximize attendance due to lack of competition with other airshows and summer weekend offerings, they’ve said previously.
Calls and emails seeking comment from the Thunderbirds were not returned Thursday.
The Thunderbirds cut their Atlantic City performance short last year. Airshow and local public safety officials later attributed the abrupt end to a collision with a sea gull.
Airshow boss David Schultz deferred comment to Kelly, as did representatives from event partners including the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority.
Contact Emily Previti:
Follow @emily_previti on Twitter