When the Atlantic City Airshow returns to the resort June 26, it will not resemble the city’s airshows of the past decade.
Not for lack of trying by organizers, the airshow will run about three and a half hours rather than the marathon six-hour shows of years past. Federal budget cuts earlier this year left the Greater Atlantic City Chamber and airshow boss David Schultz planning an Atlantic City Airshow without any military acts for the first time in its modern run.
Organizers insist, however, that an abridged show does not equate to a lackluster performance. The show has been totally reinvented with a mix of aerobatic demonstrations and vintage military planes that will offer spectators a totally new show in a compressed schedule, they said.
“We’ve taken an extremely hard, honest look at this schedule and really reinvented the show,” said Schultz, whose company coordinates the show. “A lot of shows that are still going on will rely on single-plane aerobatic acts. After a while it all starts to look the same. That won’t happen in Atlantic City.”
Taking the place of the military acts will be aerobatic stunt pilots as well as older military aircraft, including former World War II and Korean War fighter planes, now flown by commercial teams, Schultz said.
“We’re putting things up in the air that people have never seen before,” chamber President Joe Kelly said. “For years we’ve had different demos, and the Thunderbirds were always a staple, but the show was pretty much the same. For someone who is really an enthusiast, they’re going to have a chance to see something that people really don’t see flying a lot.”
A 31/2-hour show might have its advantages, Kelly said, noting that in past years people have complained about gaps between performers. The gaps are necessary to allow for safe travel distances with some larger military fly-bys, Schultz said.
Organizers have been grappling with changes to the show since last year, when they were unable to book the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds for the first time. Federal budget cuts would later ground the team’s other performances, along with those of the U.S. Army Golden Knights, which had still been scheduled to perform in Atlantic City.
With civilian acts sometimes costing more than triple the $6,000 price tag for a military jet team performance, organizers were forced to plan for a different type of show. Other organizers facing similar dilemmas have canceled shows entirely. According to the International Council of Air Shows, more than 40 shows across the country were canceled as of April.
“Atlantic City took a real risk and also made a smart move by not deciding to cancel the show,” said Jeff Guaracino, a spokesman for the Atlantic City Alliance, which handles marketing for the resort. “The bottom line is we’re going to see how it does this year. We don’t know. But if you didn’t have a show at all, no one’s coming.”
The Alliance has developed advertisements that will specifically promote the airshow along with other events.
“The challenge is to explain to people just how special this year will be,” Guaracino said. “Three hours is still a nice day. Some people might think it’s a better show.”
The 2012 show was the first to be held on a Friday, rather than a traditional midweek date. This year, the show returns to a Wednesday, but for the first time will take place in June rather than August. Organizers hope that the show will kick off the summer season with a packed week of events, including the Offshore Grand Prix Powerboat Racing, the World Championship of Sand Sculpting and the Atlantic City Salutes the Armed Forces Parade.
A study by Atlantic Cape Community College’s Center for Regional and Business Research estimated that 908,000 people watched the 2012 show, 289,095 of whom were not from the area and would otherwise not have been in the Atlantic City region on a typical Friday in August. The estimated economic impact: $42.5 million.
Kelly won’t venture to estimate exactly how many people might come to this year’s show, and Schultz said it’s difficult to tell in light of so many changes. Still, Schultz said there is a loyal following of airshow enthusiasts. With other airshows canceled in the mid-Atlantic region, people may be willing to drive farther for an airshow experience, he said.
“Just like there are diehard Eagles fans and diehard Phillies fans, there are diehard air show fans, too,” Schultz said. “They will travel far and wide to see a show.”
2013 Atlantic City Airshow Schedule
Noon — National Anthem
12:03 p.m. — 4ACE Aerobatics*
12:15 p.m. — Jim Beasley Jr. Spitfire Demo
12:25 p.m. — Warrior Aviation L-39 Solo
12:32 p.m. — Warrior Aviation YAK-9 Solo
12:38 p.m. — Warrior Aviation Formation Flights
12:45 p.m. — Raiders Solo YAK-52 Demo
12:55 p.m. — PPG Dan McClung Pitts Aerobatics
1:10 p.m. — Firebirds Aerobatic Team
1:25 p.m. — Matt Chapman CAP580 Aerobatics
1:38 p.m. — Jim Beasley Jr. P-51 Demo
1:50 p.m. — USAF Heritage Flight from USAF Heritage Foundation
2 p.m. — Raiders Aerobatic Team (4-ship)
2:20 p.m. — Bill Stein Extra 330 Aerobatics
2:32 p.m. — To be determined
2:45 p.m. — Rob Holland MX-2 Aerobatics (World Unlimited Aerobatic Champion)
3 p.m. — Geico Skytypers (6-ship)
3:30 p.m. — Airshow Ends
*Watch video of the 4ACE Aerobatics team at:
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