OC Air Show Returns With Four Military Teams On Tap

OCEAN CITY – The OC Air Show returns this weekend, featuring the U.S. Air Force Thunderbird demonstration team and a combination of civilian and military acts.

Originally scheduled for mid-June, the Town of Ocean City and air show officials postponed the event in May with plans to revisit a date later in the summer. The Aug. 15-16 date was announced in June, but last week there were some last-minute concerns that jeopardized the event.

After reviewing the event’s show center plans with ticketed guests given prime viewing areas, the state’s Attorney General’s Office said the efforts to group people together violated COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. The loss of the ticket revenue was a major financial blow to the event, leading air show officials to seek $100,000 from the city to continue with the event.

After considerable debate, the City Council voted 6-0, with Councilman Tony DeLuca absent, to provide a $100,000 supplementary allocation to the air show. It’s important to note the town already provides $35,000 to the air show through a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The council agreed to supply the additional $100,000 with a couple of stipulations. For example, the money will be used to pay invoices incurred by the air show, Ocean City will be one of the primary sponsors, the town will receive 50% of the advertising revenue from the live stream and the town will also gain access to the thousands of the air show’s email subscribers to promote future events.

Along with the popular Thunderbirds, the event will feature three Air Force fighter jet demo teams, marking one of the few times spectators can see all them at the same show. The F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lighting II and A-10 Thunderbolt II demonstration teams will perform at the event.

Spectators this year can enhance their viewing experience from anywhere in Ocean City by attending virtually through a livestream at air.show/livestream, which will feature a sporting event-style broadcast. Businesses throughout Ocean City have been encouraged to livestream the performances in their restaurants, retail stores and hotel lobbies.

“This will be the one of the first times aviation fans can see a demonstration of the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lighting II stealth fighters at the same event,” said Bryan Lilley, chairman of the OC Air Show.  “The stage for the OC Air Show is 10 miles wide and 1,000 feet high. Spectators can watch from their backyard, balcony, boat or the beach, making it the ideal event for the Ocean City community to host in the era of social distancing.”

After a practice session on Friday, the air show flight performances will begin at noon. The sequences on Saturday and Sunday are similar and include the invocation and the National Anthem followed by the L-39 Cold War Era Jet demonstration, the GEICO Skytypers, United States Coast Guard Search and Rescue team demonstration, Panchito B-25 Bomber Flight, Scott Francis, C-17 Globemaster III flyover, the A-10 Warthog, F-22 Raptor demonstration, Air Force Heritage Flight, F-35 Lightning II demonstration team, Mike Wiskus in the Lucas Oil Pitts and the Thunderbirds.

During the GEICO Skytypers performance, a land-and-sea competition will take place to determine what’s – a World War II-era, open-cockpit SNJ trainer plane at full throttle or an 11-time world champion offshore racing catamaran.

Immediately following the Skytypers air show demonstration, one of the solo pilots will swoop down to a low-altitude just above the deck of its water-bound counterpart Miss GEICO and the air-versus-sea duel will begin. The airplane and boat will race in both directions to ensure that currents and wind conditions don’t dictate the ultimate winner making the race a battle of skill and expertise.

“Each race is utterly unpredictable,” said Miss GEICO Crew Chief Gary Stray. “The liquid track has constantly changing conditions such as wave size and wind strength which greatly affect our speed and handling capability.  With a WWII airplane screaming down out of the sky and racing so close, it feels like it could land on the deck of the boat.”

Technically, the WWII SNJ is rated at a top speed of 213 mph at an altitude of 6,000 feet. Under ideal water conditions, the Miss GEICO race boat has reached a top speed of 210 mph during a record setting speed run.

Tom Daly, GEICO Skytyper lead solo pilot, says experience and skill are the real differentiators.

“The boat will be tough to beat because it has more power and is completely state of the art.  But we rely on expert management of geometry and physics to extract the maximum output possible out of these vintage airplanes,” said Daly.

Miss GEICO throttleman Steve Curtis is looking forward to returning to Ocean City.

“The Ocean City Air Show gives the public a rare chance to witness this air-sea duel.  The race is something we only do a couple of times each year,” Curtis said. “This particular race will be especially exciting as Maryland natives, Travis Pastrana and Brit Lilly, will join me in the driver’s seat on alternating days to participate in the races.”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.