The 2012 Atlantic City Airshow, Thunder Over The Boardwalk, is happening TODAY from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. This event is an incredibly huge deal in Atlantic City every summer. Probably because it’s an amazing sight to behold. And it’s free. Last year the show had about 800,000 spectators. Yowza.
You can watch the show from the Atlantic City beach and anywhere on the boardwalk, all the way down to our beloved Showboat. Rumor has it that the center of the action will be somewhere around Florida Avenue.
Many legit groups will be participating in the event from the United States Air Force, Coast Guard and Navy as well as a good number of Aerobatic demonstration teams.
In fact, Lt. Col Tim “Sonic” Hassel, Commander of the 119th Fighter Squadron of the United States Air Force, sat down to talk with us about his team and their participation in this year’s Atlantic City Airshow. Learn a little about the faces behind the planes, below.
TAC: You are the commander of the 119th Fighter Squadron. Can you give us a little background on your unit?
Lt. Col Hassel: The squadron lineage goes all the way back to September 1917, with periods of service in WWII, and Vietnam. Over the years it has flown a variety of aircrafts to include the P-47, the F-100, the F-105, the F-106, and since 1988, the F-16. Our Squadron carries a peacetime mission with alert fighters always on status since 9-11 as well training as a reserve component of the Air Force in a variety of combat missions such as Close Air Support. In this role, our squadron has been activated and served in Iraq and Afghanistan four times in the last decade.
TAC: When did you become commander of this unit and what is your previous career history with the United States Air Force?
Lt. Col Hassel: I became the Squadron Commander this past April after serving as the Director of Operations for the previous three years. I was commissioned at the United States Air Force Academy in May 1990. I flew the F-16 on active duty at Shaw AFB, SC, Kunsan AB, South Korea and Luke AFB, AZ prior to joining the Air National Guard in 2001.
TAC: How did you get your nickname, Sonic?
Lt. Col Hassel: While assigned to the 8th FW in Kunsan AB, South Korea, I was on a particular training sortie where I accidentally left my throttle up too high on a steep simulated bombing run and exceeded the Mach one in the dive. It was not the only excessive speed event, so they thought Sonic was fitting.
TAC: What is your participation in the Atlantic City Airshow this year? Can you give us a little insight as to what you will be doing?
Lt. Col Hassel: Normally, the Squadron Commander leads the four ship flying during this annual event. So this year that will be me. We will flyby in close formation, then later flyby again on the wing of a KC-135 from our sister guard unit from McGuire. The Air Force is very strict on airshow guidelines so you won’t see any spectacular maneuvers like those authorized for the pilots that perform weekly on the airshow circuit, but what you will see is four combat aircraft that just returned from service in Afghanistan.
TAC: Can you give us a little information on the rest of your team that will be participating with you?
Lt. Col Hassel: The other pilots flying in the formation on Friday will be Major Tom “Maddog” Still, Lt. Col Neal “Drifter” Snetsky, and Captain Brian “Spydr” Bradke. Plus, we will have a fifth aircraft as a spare flown by Lt. Col Thor “Thoro” Himley.
TAC: How many of these types of shows do you participate in yearly?
Lt. Col Hassel: Our squadron performs several flybys every year such as the Eagles home opener and for Memorial Day events. Flying in an actual airshow though, is a once a year event for us.
TAC: What do you think makes your group’s performance unique among all the other participants in this year’s Airshow?
Lt. Col Hassel: What makes our flyby unique is that we are the local Air National Guard unit. Almost all of the performers will be staging their aircraft out of our airfield at the Atlantic City Airport.
TAC: What are you personally looking forward to at the Air Show other than your group’s performance?
Lt. Col Hassel: After completing the flyby, I look forward to changing into beach clothes and enjoying the rest of the show down at the beach with my family and the kids and families of Cub Scout Pack 12 like we do every year.
Are you here at the Airshow today? Let us know how you liked it here and give a wave to the 119th Fighter Squadron up there!