ATLANTIC CITY — Minutes after taking off in quick succession from Atlantic City International Airport, the World War II trainer planes of the GEICO Skytypers glided over the shoreline with the resort’s casinos in the background and spectators dotting the beach below.
With a view just as good from the sky as from the sand, participating pilots are anticipating Wednesday’s Atlantic City Airshow as much as the hundreds of thousands of attendees expected.
“It’s one of the largest one-day shows in the country,” said Tom Daly, 71, a pilot with the Skytypers from Garden City, New York. “And we’ve been in this show since the beginning. So for us, it’s kind of like home.”
The airshow, which was advertised this year with the military theme “A Salute to Those That Serve,” will feature nearly minute-by-minute performances from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday with military jet teams, including the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team, the British Royal Air Force Red Arrows and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds flying over the shoreline.
Those watching from the beach will see aerobatic performances and Coast Guard search-and-rescue demonstrations, plus a race between a boat and planes.
On Tuesday, beachgoers catching the free rehearsal near California Avenue had come from places like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts to watch. Some were there for specific performances, others just loved airshows. They had binoculars and high-powered cameras and pointed out incoming jets flying low over the city.
Randy Peterson, 66, of Lawrence, Massachusetts, and his son Sean, 35, of Methuen, Massachusetts, came to see the Thunderbirds and the Red Arrows.
The beach adds a different perspective other shows don’t have, they said.
“The biggest thing is that you can’t hear them coming, so that’s always like a surprise every single time,” said Sean, gesturing toward the city. “That’s kind of nice.”
It has another perk many other shows can’t offer: water.
A co-owner of the GEICO team, Scotty Begovich, 52, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, is a native of Brick Township, Ocean County, and has raced their 47-foot lime green catamaran, “Miss GEICO,” against planes in the Atlantic City Airshow for five years.
“All the airshows have pretty good crowds, but Atlantic City has an exceptionally large crowd, especially for it being on a Wednesday,” Begovich said. “And that, with the backdrop of the casinos and the Boardwalk, it’s just an unbelievable event.”
For most participants, year-round practice has made their performances almost muscle memory. The pilots spent the early part of this week rehearsing and getting familiar with landmarks, nevertheless.
The skytyping team flew in such a tight configuration Monday afternoon that they could use hand signals as they prepared for a change in their flight pattern or a steep turn over the waves.
On Tuesday, all six of the propeller planes streamed side-by-side and perpendicular to the shore, casting smoke in the shape of the American flag behind them. Pedestrians stopped to crane their necks skyward.
Ken Leboff, 61, and his wife, Hilary, 61, of Langhorne, Pennsylvania, rented a house to see the show. They had their chairs set up in the sand for rehearsals.
“I’ve done lots of airshows,” said Ken. “This is better than a tarmac.”
As for what they can expect when the real show starts, Skytyper pilot Steve Kapur, 64, of Sparta, Sussex County, put it simply: “It’s gonna be quite a show.”