2014 Air Shows

OC Air Show, June 14-15, 2014

Location: Ocean City, MD
Admission: Free
Parking: On-street and Municipal Parking Lots (fee), VIP parking (fee)
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Clear blue skies, warm ocean waters, sunny beaches and airplanes made for a perfect weekend this year at the OC Air Show in Ocean City, Maryland. The airshow coincided with both Flag Day and Father’s Day and was close enough to the start of summer to ensure large crowds on both days. Although somewhat sparse, the lineup included a little bit of everything: parachutists, warbird fly-bys, civilian aerobatic demonstrations, a modern military tactical demonstration, and, finally, the USAF Thunderbirds.
The Leap Frogs started the action, jumping from an Air Force C-130J Super Hercules. The first parachutist flew in the national flag then narrated the rest of the demonstration. The next jumper dangled a long line of smoke canisters below him, sketching a corkscrew of color on the bright blue canvas of the sky. The next three jumpers joined up in a vertical stack, the upper flyers sitting on the canopy of the man underneath. The lower two jumpers then linked legs and soon the three were streaking earthward in a spiraling horizontal lineup, breaking apart seemingly at the last minute. All of the jumpers made pinpoint landings on the beach just in front of the VIP chalet. Gary Ward in his MX-2 and Greg Connell in his Pitts radial-engined Model 12 biplane provided plenty of high energy aerobatics, both singly and in a tandem demonstration.
Warbirds were next on the agenda, featuring both a fighter and bomber from World War II. Sean Carroll flew a number of very nice high-speed and banking passes in his Yak-9U. Similarly, the B-25J Mitchell “Panchito” made several beautiful passes both from the right and left. Bombing runs were simulated with the bomb-bay doors open and the maneuverability of the aircraft was demonstrated with several zoom climbs and banking turns, nicely showing off the plan view of the airframe. This aircraft was sponsored by the Disabled American Veterans and was raising money by selling rides out of a local airport during the weekend.
Then it got loud. Real loud! The Marine’s Harrier II jet from MCAS Cherry Point arrived with a high speed pass and delighted the crown with both its fast and slow action. Slowing to a halt, it pirouetted about its own axis, then descended in hovering flight, whipping up clouds of sea spray. After a few more demonstrations of this aircraft’s amazing capabilities it rose straight up on dual columns of sooty exhaust and departed to applause and cheers from the crowds. The Marine’s other V/STOL aircraft, the MV-22, did not make an appearance, but a number of feathered Ospreys entertained the spectators by repeatedly catching large fish and flying directly over the crowd line on the return flight to their nests.
The Red Bull Air Force parachute demonstration team showed off their skills next. They first flew their wingsuits for an extended period before deploying their chutes and whistling in for high-speed landings right alongside the crowd-line fence. Normally employed to type out messages in the sky, the GEICO Skytypers instead put on a very nice demonstration of precision formation flying in their vintage warbirds. The team of six SNJ-2 aircraft put on a series of maneuvers designed to showcase the capabilities of the Second World War trainer. Their use of smoke on the crystal-clear day was most effective. Then, before you knew it, it was time for the headline act, the Thunderbirds. Their high-speed entrance from behind and over the heads of the spectators brought everyone to their feet where they remained for the duration of the performance. Many of the maneuvers were similar to those executed by the Skytypers, but now with afterburner at speeds of several hundred miles per hour! There was sufficient moisture in the air from storms the previous week that each high-g maneuver resulted in billowing streaks of vapor over the wings and vortices streaming from the wing-tip missile rails. Sunday’s high show used every inch of the aerobatic box and some new additions to the routine took even veteran viewers by surprise. To make up for the lack of access during the show, team members appeared during the Take Off Party Friday night to mingle with the crowds, answer questions, take photographs and sign autographs.
The airshow is visible all along the Boardwalk, although VIP seating and chalets are available at show center at 16th Street. There is even a VIP Skybox on a second story terrace directly at show center for those desiring an elevated view and a sand and saltwater-free environment for their camera equipment. Being a public beach show, there is no formal opening time and, being on the Boardwalk, there are no security checks. Visitors are able to arrive as early or as late as they want, driven mostly by parking considerations. One very nice feature of this show is that people are allowed on the beach, and even in the water, during the show. This was also true in front of the chalets at show center, as long as people maintained a reasonable distance from the seating areas. And, of course, the drop zone for the parachutists was kept clear! Food and drinks were available from stores along the Boardwalk or from vendors on the beach. Airplanes towing banners advertising local restaurants and shops are a staple of summer at the beach. The organizers decided to incorporate them into the show by scheduling two breaks in the action, allowing the banners to be flown overhead and spectators to take a break and patronize some of the advertised establishments. Win-win.
Thanks to the organizers, sponsors, volunteers and performers for another great start to summer on the beach.
Performances included:
  • USAF Thunderbirds
  • US Navy Parachute Demonstration Team “Leap Frogs”
  • McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II, VMAT-203 “Hawks”, MCAS Cherry Point
  • North American B-25J Mitchell “Panchito”
  • Sean Carroll, Yakovlev Yak-9U Aerobatics
  • Gary Ward, MX-2 Aerobatics
  • Greg Connell, Pitts Model 12 Aerobatics
  • GEICO Skytypers
  • Red Bull Air Force Parachute Team

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Report and photography by Norman A. Graf for ASR Media LLC
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