Thunder over the Boardwalk

Thunder over the Boardwalk

The Thunder Over the Boardwalk Airshow is the annual airshow held over the Atlantic City Boardwalk every August. Since 2003, it has set the bar for beachfront airshows across the United States and is currently one of the largest airshows in North America. What sets apart Thunder Over the Boardwalk from other shows, aside from being a beach show, is the fact that the airshow takes place on a Wednesday. The show takes place along the beaches of Atlantic City, New Jersey, in front of the world-famous Boardwalk, with the casinos in the background. It is produced by a joint venture of the Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey Air National Guard's 177th Fighter Wing, the Borgata Hotel & Spa, David Schultz Airshows, the Press of Atlantic City, and WOND-AM.

The airshow itself primarily showcases military aviation, with demonstrations from the USAF Thunderbirds, US Army Golden Knights, as well as demonstrations from current Air Force and Navy aircraft, such as the A-10 Thunderbolt II, AV-8B Harrier, F-14 Tomcat, F-15 Eagle, F-15E Strike Eagle, and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Military flybys over the four years of the airshow have included the B-2 Spirit, C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster III, C-130 Hercules, C-141 Starlifter, F-22 Raptor, KC-10 Extender, KC-135 Stratotanker, and the P-3 Orion. Helicopters that have showed up over the years include the MH-60S Knighthawk, the HH-60 Jayhawk, the CH-146 Griffon, and the HH-65 Dauphin (the HH-60 and HH-65 - usually two HH-65s - perform a simultaneous Search & Rescue Demonstration over the water).

Aerobatic performers over the years have included Kirby Chambliss, Doug Dodge, Michael Hunter, John Klatt, and Sean Tucker. The Horseman Mustang Demonstration by Jim Beasley and Ed Shipley have also appeared along with the Skytypers and the Vultures Formation Team. The FAA's William J Hughes Technical Center at Atlantic City International Airport has showcased their Convair 440, Boeing 727-100, and Gulfstream in the show as well. The New Jersey State Police has also shown off their Bell 206 and Sikorski S-76 helicopters in the airshows.

The announcers for the Thunder Over the Boardwalk Airshow have included Gordon Bowman-Jones (2003 and 2005), Howdy McCann (2004 and 2006), and Pinky Kravitz (2003-). Show center is marked in front of Boardwalk Hall (Florida Avenue) and the beach. Aircraft staging for the airshow is done at Atlantic City International Airport and at McGuire AFB, both of which are off-limits to the public.

The first Atlantic City "Thunder Over the Boardwalk" Airshow took place on August 27, 2003, as a way to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Powered Flight. Over 200,000 people packed the beach and the Boardwalk to witness one of the best airshows in New Jersey in many years. Headlining that show were the Thunderbirds and the Golden Knights, who have been back to every airshow since then. The show also featured demonstrations from the A-10, F-14, F-15, and F-16, all jam packed into a five and a half hour flying display. The weather was not very favorable, as it was very hazy for the entire day, but all of the performers managed to put on their best show.

The 2004 show was held on August 18, and featured the same four demonstrations, as it would be the last time an F-14 Tomcat would fly over Atlantic City, along with the last airshow appearance of a C-141B Starlifter from McGuire AFB, as the type was being withdrawn from active duty service. The skies were about the same as they were in 2003, and all of the performers were able to put on their best shows for over 350,000 airshow fans and beachgoers.

The 2005 show was held on August 31, and featured the Thunderbirds once again, but the show was threatened by bad weather inland (caused by the remnants of Hurricane Katrina), which kept many of the performers from showing up, including Dale Snodgrass. High winds curtailed the Golden Knights and Black Daggers from jumping and caused sea spray coming off the ocean to ruin any chances for photographers to get decent pictures. The show was still a success, with over 200,000 people attending.

However, plans for 2006 started nice and early. In December 2005, the Thunderbirds had announced they were returning to Atlantic City for the fourth installment of Thunder Over the Boardwalk. Rumors had started running around the Internet in February 2006 when the Blue Angels announced they had a show site listed as "TBA" for August 23 - the same date as the Atlantic City show. In March, it was formally announced that the Blue Angels would be joining the Thunderbirds for the 2006 Thunder Over the Boardwalk Airshow. It was going to be the first time the Blue Angels had ever appeared over Atlantic City and if all of the pieces of the puzzle had fit in place, the biggest airshow in New Jersey.

Joining the Blues and Birds were a slew of performers making their Atlantic City debut, including Sean Tucker, the new F-15E Strike Eagle Demonstration Team, the B-2 Spirit, the F-4 Phantom, and the F-22 Raptor. The weather had turned out to be fantastic, with over 600,000 people attending the airshow, making the 2006 airshow the largest ever event held in Atlantic City. All of the pieces of the puzzle had fit together nicely and both jet teams held their annual reunion at Atlantic City.

For a photographer, Thunder Over the Boardwalk presents a very challenging set of circumstances to get the best shot. The show takes place over the Atlantic Ocean, which means that you will be facing the sun all morning and into the afternoon. Getting decent pictures of the aircraft as they pass by the casinos is not difficult at all, as well as getting pictures of the Golden Knights as they land, with the casinos in the background. Photographers on the beach at show center cannot get that many pictures of aircraft when they are at show left because The Pier at Caesars juts out into the ocean about 1,000 feet and is a virtual obstruction either way. Because of the Pier, aircraft are forced to fly almost half a mile away from the shore line for safety reasons.

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