A Day of Thrills at the Ocean City Air Show

first_imgPhoto Credit: Steven King By Donald WittkowskiWhen you’re flying a mere 5 feet apart while zooming along at 230 mph, you’ve got to trust the pilot in the plane next to yours.Ken Rieder and Jon Thocker, professional air show pilots who have been flying together for 10 years, said they have complete confidence in each other.Thocker, in a touch of dark humor, noted that he and Rieder have a pact. “If you promise not to fly into the ground, I promise not to hit you,” Thocker said, smiling.Thousands of air show spectators watched the action unfold overhead from prime spots on the beaches between Sixth and 14th streets.The breathtaking aerial choreography Sunday between Rieder and Thocker thrilled tens of thousands of spectators on the beaches and Boardwalk during the annual Ocean City Aerobatic Air Show.City spokesman Doug Bergen said the air show draws an estimated 75,000 people. It 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 beach season is over.Pilots Jon Thocker, left, and Ken Rieder greeted fans and signed autographs after their performance.For nearly two hours Sunday, spectators gazed into cloudless, blue skies to watch an assortment of planes and jets execute some death-defying rolls, loops and head-on passes just hundreds of feet above the ocean.Photo Credit: Steven KingRieder, 51, and Thocker, 58, both of Cincinnati, entertained the crowd with a series of steep climbs, high-speed dives and wingtip-to-wingtip flying in their small, RV-8 planes.Pilot Scott Francis shakes hands with one air show fan.“They make it look so easy,” exclaimed Howdy McCann, the air show announcer.Rieder said he and Thocker fly as close as 5 feet next to each other while hitting a top speed of 230 mph.“It takes eye-hand coordination and some really good eyesight. My trust level has to be real high with his abilities,” Rieder said of Thocker.Photo Credit: Steven KingScott Francis, another air show performer, drew gasps from the crowd when he swooped down in a corkscrew motion that brought his remarkably agile MXS plane within 500 feet of the ocean.“It makes you a little dizzy, but it’s fun,” Francis, 49, of South Riding, Va., said of the corkscrew maneuver during an interview after the show. “If that doesn’t get your adrenaline going, nothing will.”At one point, Francis made his plane hang motionless in midair for several seconds. His performance also included high-arching loops converted into 300 mph dives.Photo Credit: Steven KingWhile Francis, Rieder, Thocker and other performers were soaring overhead, the spectators were soaking up the action from prime spots on the beaches and Boardwalk between Sixth and 14th streets.Jackie and Bob DeWire, a married couple from Milford, Hunterdon County, said they come to the air show every year. They have a summer vacation place at the Whippoorwill Campgrounds in Upper Township.Bob and Jackie DeWire, of Milford, Hunterdon County, attend the air show every year.As they usually do, the DeWires staked out a vantage point on the 11th Street beach to be in the heart of the air show’s fly zone.Jackie DeWire said she loves the aerobatic flying, but is frightened at times when the pilots come so close to the water.“It’s exciting when they do great stunts just above the water and then shoot up again,” she said. “Sometimes, I’m scared they’re going into the water. It’s breathtaking.”Air show fan Carol Tettemer, of Doylestown, Pa., was accompanied by grandson Quin and granddaughter Sabrina on the 11th Street beach.Carol Tettemer, of Doylestown, Pa., brought her 10-year-old grandson, Quin Tettemer, and 8-year-old granddaughter, Sabrina Famularo, to the air show. Stretched out on a blanket on the 11th Street beach, they anxiously waited for the flying to begin.“I like it when the planes fly low and make noise,” Quin said. “I really like the tricks.”Photo Credit: Steven Kinglast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *