During World War II, the expression "Keep 'em flying" was used in bond drives and recruitment posters for the Army Air Corps, the forerunner of the U.S. Air Force. It reflected a stubborn determination to support America's airmen during the war. The phrase was popular enough to be the name of a 1941 Gene Krupa song and the title of a movie starring Abbott and Costello that same year.
And it could easily be the theme of this year's Atlantic City Airshow, which will take off over the resort today at noon, highlighting not just the aircraft, but the grit of the show's organizers, who overcame some big obstacles to pull it off.
The free airshow has been one of the city's major events for the past 10 years. This year, the Greater Atlantic City Chamber, which organizes the show, faced big changes and major challenges. The show was moved from August to June, and from a Friday back to midweek, when special events have more of an impact.
But organizers couldn't have predicted that the bitter politics in Washington would threaten the show. One of the first casualties of the failed budget deal known as the sequester was the cancellation of military-aircraft appearances at airshows throughout the country. Even before that, a scheduling conflict meant this would be the first time since the show was resurrected in 2003 that the popular U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds would be absent.
But rather than cancel, as many other airshow groups throughout the country did, chamber members decided the airshow must go on. They have brought in acrobatic teams, a group that uses smoke to type in the sky and a number of fascinating World War II planes. There will be a demonstration by a Harrier, a vertical take-off and landing fighter jet, and high-speed flying by a Spitfire, the plane that won the Battle of Britain.
Going ahead with the show was the right choice. In January, a report by Richard Perniciaro, director of Atlantic Cape Community College's Center for Regional and Business Research, showed just how important the airshow has become to Atlantic City. The 2012 show brought in more than 900,000 people, nearly a third of them from outside the area, folks who otherwise would not have been in Atlantic City that day. The study estimated the show was worth $42.5 million to the local economy.
The airshow and the accompanying Armed Forces Parade, which was held Monday, are the kind of big, brash, colorful events that the city's Boardwalk and its free beaches are ideal for.
Get out and enjoy the airshow today, if you can. And if you see any of the show's organizers, thank the folks who keep 'em flying.