Quieter A.C. Airshow disappoints those hoping for thunder

Members of the 4CE Aerobatic Team perform at the Atlantic City Airshow on Wednesday. It featured many vintage planes performing aerial maneuvers.
Members of the 4CE Aerobatic Team perform at the Atlantic City Airshow on Wednesday. It featured many vintage planes performing aerial maneuvers. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 28, 2013

ATLANTIC CITY - When evaluating this year's Atlantic City Airshow, it must be said, it was an excellent beach day with some really cool planes flying around.

A lot of people were in town and on the beaches - estimates ranged from 200,000 to half a million - and the ocean was warm.

But if you were looking for another year of Thunder over your Boardwalk, the skies were clear in more ways than one.

Budget cuts from Sequestration grounded the eye- and ear-popping Thunderbirds, the parachuting Golden Knights, and other military demonstrations of years past. The result was a nostalgic, even mellow airshow on Wednesday. But sundrenched. "Toned down," said Frank Farrell, 52, of Rumson, N.J., putting it kindly.

"A dud," said one veteran member of the Atlantic City Beach Patrol.

"It was horrible," said Sheri Nogle of Somers Point, who watched from the Dorset Avenue Beach in Ventnor, which in years past was a prime spot where the deafening Thunderbirds made their turns, sending cats scurrying under couches and drowning out all conversation. This year's lineup did not translate as well for Downbeach. "We've been coming every August for 10 years. We were very upset. We didn't see anything."

It surely wasn't the same without the Thunderbirds. Last year, with the airshow on a Friday in its usual August spot, more than 900,000 people were there to see it.

Still, this year had its boosters. There were no Golden Knights jumping out of planes with American flags, but 18-year-old Senni Bloom's stirring national anthem still got people to get up out of their beach chairs, turn around, and put their hands over their hearts. And people got to stand around in the surf and blame President Obama, or Congress, or both, depending on their politics, for the budget cuts.

For airshow fans such as commercial pilot Tom Riddick Jr. of Sullivan County, N.Y., and Joe Tarafas of Bethlehem, Pa., who was an aircraft mechanic with the Air Force, the vintage planes were a better show than the modern jets.

"It's a classic and a beauty," Riddick gasped, as the two watched Philadelphia attorney James Beasley Jr. fly his Supermarine Spitfire, a British single-seat aircraft with a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine used by the Royal Air Force through World War II. "I'd sell my soul to fly in that thing."

The lineup featured mostly World War II-era planes doing acrobatics, precision maneuvers by the Geico Skytypers, a race between a plane and a speedboat, all topped off by Art Nalls in his privately owned British Sea Harrier that brought some thunder at last as it hovered, did verticals, and screamed out some horizontal runs along the ocean, to some applause. The branches of the U.S. military sent only recruiters to the Boardwalk.

Contact Amy S. Rosenberg at 609-823-0453 or arosenberg@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter at @amysrosenberg.

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