A high-flying day for AyCee

Sure, it's barely a Band-Aid on a tumor in the overall scheme of things, but everyone involved in today's Atlantic City Air Show has a right to feel pretty damned good.

A crowd whose estimates may reach upwards of 750,000 jammed the beach and Boardwalk to watch a spectacular display of military hardware and aeronautic acrobatics under a bright sun that was mercifully tempered by an occasional passing cloud or two.

Walking along the Boardwalk around noontime recalled those sepia photos from the 1910s and '20s in which the Great Wood Way is a sea of people jammed shoulder-to-shoulder. Tuesday night, all 11 casinos were reporting no vacancies, and today, gaming hall eateries (at least those in midtown) saw the kinds of lunch-hour lines that were standard in the long-gone days when AC held the East Coast gambling monopoly.

Even at 1 p.m.--the midway point of the four-hour exhibition--the line of cars eastbound on the Atlantic City Expressway strectched back to the approach to the Pleasanvile (75-cent) toll plaza, several miles out of town.

While a one-day extravaganza won't begin to cure the city's economic ills, the annual Air Show certainly proves that it can stage a first-class mega-event the likes of which no other gaming destination outside Vegas could dream of executing.

The challenge now will be for Atlantic City to build on the momentum created by today's event. If it can, it could go along way in ensuring the town has a future as a resort destination.