OC AIR SHOW
(Clockwise from top left) Team RV’s Danny Kight, whose goes by the call sign “Speedy.” The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. Mike Wiskus in the Lucas Oil Pitts. And, in this photo, Team RV, the world’s largest air show team. (June 8, 2012) Organizers of the 2012 OC Air Show, set to take place this Saturday and Sunday, are expecting the fifth annual event to keep spectators on the edge of their seats from start to finish.
“This is the fifth anniversary and it’s getting bigger and better every year,” said Cathy Bassett, spokeswoman for B. Lilley LLC Productions, the company producing the show. “We have an incredible line-up of performers, with the return of the Thunderbirds. For the first time, we have two jet demonstrations teams, with Thunderbirds and the Black Diamond Jet Team. It will be an exciting, fun weekend for the whole family.”
The weekend show will kick off Saturday with a parachute jump by the 101st Airborne Scream Eagles team, who will carry a large flag down to the beach. More than a dozen military and civilian performers are set to take to the sky each day, from noon to 4 p.m. Many people who arrived in Ocean City before the main event may have caught a glimpse of them practicing their acts this week.
The show is centered around the beach at 16th Street, where there are premium viewing areas set up for a fee, though the performances may be viewed from the beach and along the Boardwalk for free.
The fifth anniversary show will feature pilots and teams performing various forms of acrobatic and extreme flying. The two-day line-up, headlined by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, will showcase parachute jump teams, low altitude flyovers and the nation’s best aerobatic performers, including the U.S. Navy F-18 Hornet, GEICO Skytypers, A-10 Thunderbolt (Warthog), 2011 Aerobatic Freestyle World Champion Rob Holland, U.S. Navy Seals Leap Frogs, Mike Wiskus in the Lucas Oil Pitts, 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles, Mike Goulian in the Goodyear Extra 330SC, Sean Carroll in the Yakovlev Yak-9 and C-5M Super Galaxy. The U.S. Coast Guard will also conduct a search and rescue demonstration.
Carroll, who lives in Ocean City, will be flying in the air show again this year, performing aerobatic tricks in his vin- tage World War II Yak-9 plane.
“It’s a fast, noisy airplane. It’s a difficult plane to fly, but it’s a fun plane to fly. It’s a loud monster,” he said.
Carroll, who has been flying the Yak-9 for 14 years, said the Ocean City show is one of his favorites because of the beach location. He will be maneuvering between 50 and 5,000 feet above the beach, reaching speeds of nearly 500 miles per hour. Many of his friends and family will be watching him perform.
“I love Ocean City. It’s like I’m the hometown boy,” Carroll said. “I’ve been all around the world and Ocean City is a pretty cool place to call home.”
After his performance, Carroll said he will stop by Show Center to meet fans and sign autographs.
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Mike Wiskus and his Lucas Oil Pitts plane will make their Ocean City Air Show debut, and he said he is looking forward to the event.
“What a great place to do a show. My favorite shows are over water. We travel all over the U.S. and Canada and do a lot of big shows, and this is a nice addition to our schedule,” said Wiskus, who will perform many of his stunts about 10-15 feet above the ocean. “Spectators can expect to see a lot of smoke and hear a lot of noise. They’ll see airplanes do things you don’t expect airplanes to do.”
During the show, Wiskus’ aircraft will reach speeds of 250-280 miles per hour, and he will also drop to zero.
The GEICO Skytypers Air Show Team consists of six of 11 remaining vintage World War II SNJ-2’s that demonstrate low-level precision flying. The team also “types” messages at 10,000 feet with puffs of smoke in dot matrix-style letters at an altitude of 10,000 feet. On a clear day, the messages can be seen nearly 20 miles away. The GEICO Skytypers are the only flying unit in the world that performs at air shows typing their messages in the sky.
During the 18-minute performance, the GEICO Skytypers will come within 500 feet of the beach and reach speeds ranging from 120-180 miles per hour.
“Ocean City is a really good show for us. It’s one of our favorite shows and it’s so close to New York so a lot of our families come,” said Jim Record, the No. 7 pilot, who has been with the team since 1992. The former Navy pilot, based in Long Island, N.Y., handles the team’s media, show narration and filming. “We like the commitment of the community. They support the air show a lot.”
Fans will have an opportunity to meet some of the pilots at the GEICO tent near Show Center.
The weekend will also include a number of beach parties, happy hours and other gatherings at local businesses, where the public can meet the performers. On Saturday, a fifth anniversary party will take place at 7 p.m. at Ocean Downs Casino, on Route 589 near Ocean Pines, featuring a joint parachute team jump by the Navy Seals Leap Frogs and 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles at 8:15 p.m., followed by a finale fireworks display.
Since the Air Show’s inception, visitors have flocked to Ocean City to witness the extreme flying spectacle. According to the city’s Demoflush statistics, which estimate population based on wastewater usage, there were 260,794 people in town during the 2011 event. That was an increase from 226,679 during the same weekend in 2010, though the air show did not fall on that weekend. The population during the 2010 air show weekend was 205,882, which was noticeably lower than during the 2011 event.
“The OC Air Show has become a signature event in Ocean City. It is an exciting event to watch, and from a patriotic standpoint it is also very moving,” said Donna Abbott, Ocean City tourism and marketing director. “We are thrilled to welcome the U.S. Thunderbirds back along with all of the great acts scheduled in this year’s line-up. It looks like it is shaping up to be a fantastic weekend, and the weather forecast looks great.”
General viewing from the beach is free. Tickets for premium viewing at the Show Center on 16th Street and the beach are available, starting at $22. VIP hospitality in the Clubhouse Chalet is sold out for Saturday, but earlier this week some tickets were still available for Sunday. Tickets cost $99. VIP Penthouse tickets cost $219 for one day, or $339 for a two-day pass. Both include parking, food and beverage, among other amenities.