Would they still come? It looked doubtful two weeks ago after a pilot with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds was forced to crash his F-16 into a field in Colorado, launching an internal investigation and two Air Show appearances elsewhere having to be cancelled.
Fortunately, the pilot was able to eject and will be in Ocean City this weekend. The same cannot be said for a member of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels who died in a crash on that same day, June 2. Captain Jeff Kuss was in Ocean City last year for the OC Air Show and had a high profile role in last year’s event with the angels headlining it. Although it’s the Thunderbirds’ turn this year to headline the event, the loss to the aviation industry will be marked several times this weekend. In fact, on each of the Thunderbirds jets a message of remembrance has been affixed. It reads, “In Memory Of Marine Capt Jeff Kuss Blue Angel #6 Opposing Solo.”
June 2 was indeed a dark day for the aviation industry. For the next 10 days, the Thunderbirds’ appearance in the OC Air Show was in question. Without the Thunderbirds, it’s no secret the Air Show would have been taken a major hit. Attendance would have suffered and the “wow” factor would have been diminished considerably without its headliner. Everyone knows that.
The good news is the Thunderbirds will appear this weekend and none of those concerns have to be weighed. However, this year’s show will be all the more special because of the events of earlier this month. The dazzling display of teamwork, skill and mastery will affirm this country’s great resolve to rebound from tragedy.
Current events in the world, most recently the horrific shooting in Orlando by an extremist and cowardly hater, continue to test this country’s mettle. Polarizing politics among the candidates for the most powerful position in the world are doing the same thing. On a daily and sickening occurrence, these two individuals are exploiting death for personal gain, extolling unrealistic gun control and immigration viewpoints to put down each other.
Over the weekend, if you are fortunate enough to have an oceanfront seat to the air show in Ocean City, let yourself go and enjoy the unique spectacle of planes and jets flying over the ocean while your feet are in the sand or maybe even swimming in the ocean. We like to do that latter as the jets perform over our heads.
At their most fundamental, air shows are meant to serve as the ultimate display of patriotism. This year that should be even more special given recent events within and outside the aviation industry.