Home Latest Stories Air Show Brings Chills, Thrills to Ocean City

Air Show Brings Chills, Thrills to Ocean City

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The four-plane precision flying team Jersey Jerks performs during the air show.

By DONALD WITTKOWSKI

Scott Francis is not only a pilot, but also a prestidigitator.

Have you ever seen a plane fly sideways? Impossible, you say?

But Francis somehow magically maneuvered his plane sideways during an incredible display of precision flying at the Ocean City Boardwalk Aerobatic Show.

Francis and other pilots who performed at the air show Sunday afternoon also treated the thousands of spectators who lined the beaches and Boardwalk to an assortment of gravity defying rolls, loops, twists and flips.

At one point, the crowd gasped as Francis’ single-engine plane zoomed skyward, then hung motionless in midair for a few seconds before swooping down at high speed perilously close to the ocean. He also flew upside down.

The 90-minute show opened with members of the popular Fastrax professional skydiving team tethered to a gigantic American flag and swirling around overhead while trailed by red, white and blue smoke as they descended to the beach amid cheers from spectators who enjoyed the patriotic display.

Skydiver Brian Pangburn was attached to a sprawling 5,000-square-foot American flag when he jumped from the Fastrax plane at an altitude of 8,000 feet. He slowly came closer and closer to earth as the flag majestically flapped in the wind. At about 1,500 feet above the ground, Pangburn began to hear the cheers from the crowd below him.

“I’ve done 10,000 jumps and this is one of the most beautiful places,” Pangburn said of the spectacular views of the ocean and beach in Ocean City.

Resembling the massive crowds Ocean City attracts during a busy weekend day in the summer tourism season, the beaches and Boardwalk were packed with thousands of air show spectators Sunday afternoon.

Dan Kelchner, the city’s director of Community Services, estimated that the air show and related events drew about 50,000 visitors throughout the weekend. The air show is one of the centerpieces of Ocean City’s lineup of family-friendly fall events to continue attracting tourists to town after the peak summer tourism season is over.

“It really showcases our beach and Boardwalk with the crowds that it brings us,” Kelchner said of the air show. “It also kicks off a great series of events in our shoulder season.”

Fastrax skydivers swirl around in loops while trailed by red, white and blue smoke.

Fastrax headlined Ocean City’s air show festivities throughout the weekend, including a patriotic-themed group skydive at the airport on Saturday afternoon and a spectacular nighttime jump Saturday that lit up the sky above the Boardwalk with pyrotechnics.

Mostly sunny skies provided ideal conditions for the breathtaking aerial choreography of the planes and skydivers on Sunday. Spectators had a close-up view of the planes and skydivers on the beaches and Boardwalk between Fifth Street and 14th Street.

Greg Fancourt, his wife, Natalia, and 12-year-old son, Caelin, who live in Pennington, N.J., had the equivalent of front-row seats while watching the air show unfold from a vantage point close to the water at 11th Street.

“It has all been very good and high-quality flying,” Greg said.

When asked what part of the show he enjoyed the most, Caelin replied, “All of it.”

Natalia seemed amazed by the stunts and maneuvers performed by the aerobatic pilots.

“I really like the turns and when they fly upside down,” she said, smiling.

Aerobatic pilot Scott Francis zooms close to the water during a thrilling maneuver.

The air show featured some of the best stunt pilots and aerobatic champions in the world, including Scott Francis, Rick Volker, Kevin Russo and David Windmiller.

The Jersey Jerks team flew in close formation while executing a series of maneuvers in three vintage T-6 planes with roaring engines.

Full Throttle, a new act this year for the Ocean City air show, featured nine single-engine planes performing precision flying in tight formation. Some of the Full Throttle planes flew with lights on their wingtips to give their performance even more drama.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter staged a search-and-rescue demonstration while hovering low over the water. Later, the orange helicopter did a high-speed pass just off the beach to the delight of spectators.

Sadly, the air show’s veteran announcer, Howdy McCann, passed away in March at the age of 71.

McCann, who had announced air shows across the country for nearly 45 years, was part of David Schultz Airshows, organizer of Ocean City’s event.

“Fast” Eddie Leuter, another member of the David Schultz Airshows team, took over the announcing duties on Sunday and colorfully narrated the action, including carrying on a radio conversation with pilot Kevin Russo while Russo was performing his aerobatics.

The Fancourt family of Pennington, N.J., enjoys the air show from the 11th Street beach.
Full Throttle’s team of nine planes flies together in close formation.
A Fastrax skydiver, attached to an American flag, comes in for a landing on the beach.
A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew simulates a rescue.
Crowds line the Boardwalk to watch the air show.