The Great Debate: are air shows dying?

Air shows have been slowly fading for the past few decades, mirroring the overall decline in general aviation. The recession that began in 2008 has only accelerated the trend, as sponsorship budgets shrank and the number of paying visitors declined. Anyone who attended the Reading Air Show at its peak or Oshkosh when the Concorde visited can probably offer plenty of examples of how things have changed.

Blue Angels

No Blue Angels, no air show?

This year, the federal government has dealt the final blow, thanks to the budget sequestration. First, military aircraft appearances were slashed, with the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds grounded indefinitely. This significantly reduced the attraction for the general public, and led many air shows to simply cancel their 2013 events. By most counts, over 80 air shows have been cancelled this year. Many of those probably won’t come back.

The second blow is the FAA’s new demand for vast payments in order to receive special Air Traffic Control resources. The most visible stick-up jobs have been Sun ‘n Fun (nearly $300,000) and EAA Airventure Oshkosh (over $450,000). While larger air shows have complained and paid, smaller shows have no chance of paying these fees.

Not everyone is convinced the air show industry is dying. Some see the inevitable consolidation of an industry that was overextended and kept alive on government largesse. By focusing on a few major shows, the air show industry might actually become stronger and more sustainable. In any case, Oshkosh has never relied on the Blue Angels for a big show.

What do you think? Are air shows a dying species? Can they ever return to the glory days? Finally–does it matter? Add your comment below.

45 Comments

  1. Rich says:

    The decline in air shows is directly related to the decline in aviation. A lot of the decline in aviation can be attributed to government involvement. Hopefully, the re-write of Part 23 will lessen some of the cost of a new plane. LSA has addressed the medical situation, but LSA is not the savior that some said it would be. A few bad accidents have not helped the image of the shows. But really, how many times can you watch some planes flying over the runway, albeit upside down, or vertical, or whatever. I’d much rather see some photos of planes over some beautiful scenery, or read a story on a great trip. When I go to an airshow, I’d much rather see some of the exhibitor booths and see what’s new.

    Does it bother me that the FAA is charging for extra involvement in Oshkosh or Sun’N'Fun? Not really. Police charge churches for directing traffic at Sunday services. Major sporting events are charged for extra security. Why not airshows too. In this country, we have come to expect that government is all things to all people. Sixteen Trillion dollars later, we learn that maybe it shouldn’t be. I understand that on this forum, I’ll get a lot of thumbs down for my comment, but let’s be realistic. Participation in aviation is our choice.

  2. Ken says:

    It’s clear that GA is declining and when you look at the average age of the airshow performers it becomes even more clear that one day the pilot shortage will take its toll in this venue, too. Years ago, local airports were bustling with activity especially on the weekends, now only the corporate activity is evident with the occasional GA traffic.

    Is this trend inevitable or can the course be altered? Beyond the negative economic impact it’s just sad to see…

  3. Kayak Jack says:

    To succeed, air shows – like all other activities in Life – have to fill one or more human needs or wants. When horse and buggy didn’t do as good a job of fulfilling needs as cars, they fell in numbers.

    Simply make airshow into an “app” so kids that think they need to be entertained can play at watching real life, and it will sell. Sad statement; I wish it wasn’t true or meaningful.

  4. SamuelW says:

    I hate to say it, but…

    Are air shows a dying species? Yes.

    Can they ever return to the glory days? No.

    Finally–does it matter? Yes.

    I’m convinced the decline in general aviation and air shows is a cultural problem, not so much a cost problem. People have always found ways to afford what they want to do. The problem is that they don’t want to do aviation any more.

    • Paddyboy says:

      I hate to agree. Unfortunately, every venue having to do with Aviation is is hurt or about to be.
      In the 50′s the planes flew over my neighborhood frequently and low enough to identify and hear the engine rumble. I was fascinated. If my dad took me to the airport, we could see all types of planes just sitting around and plenty of people to talk to. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was part of the great GA boom in the mid-70′s. By the late 90′s it was pretty clear things were changing and not for the better.

      Flying commercial is no memorable experience. You can’t see anything from the airport fence anymore. In fact you don’t see much from inside the fence either. I have two hangers at the moment one small GA airport, everybody is hangered and I rarely see anyone, the FBO included. My other airport is a small private field with about 25 members. I’m one of the younger ones at 61!

      I started thinking and dreaming about airplanes and flying since I was five or six. I have 4 kids, who have no interest and neither do their friends. It’s not for lack of exposing them to airports, airshows or the RENO Air Races. Some of the people I know, myself included still fly around for fun but not as much, because cost is a factor. But so are growing regulations, surprise TFR’s and worst of all diminished competency due to flying less!

      I guess, aviation as a field and pilot as a vocation (or avocation) has become no more exciting than an accountant filling out a tax form. Not much to get excited about.

  5. gregg reynolds says:

    Declining? Yes.
    Dying? I say no.
    Problems?
    Economics including high costs of fuel and other essentials of flying are reducing participation plus the lack of military involvement lowers visitor attendance.
    Bright spots?
    Young kids at the fly-ins are excited by what they see.
    Educators bringing students to air shows for interaction with pilots and close-up examination of aircraft on display can only bode well for general aviation.
    Strong community involvement and local turnouts for events like the annual FHR fly-in show that interest in aviation still draws the public and kids.

  6. Mike says:

    I still have a huge problem with the FAA collecting fees for events like Sun and Fun and Oshkosh since we already pay for those services even more so at large flyin events. Having said that are they under charging or over charging? Is this some plucked out of the air figure. The FAA should have to submit a detailed billing to account for every penny spent because I’m sure if they collected too much they’d return it right. Man I crack myself up with that one. Would love to be at Oskosh to see the reception the FAA adminastrator gets this year if he even has the nerve to show up.

    • Rich says:

      “since we already pay for those services” Figure out what we pay for those services. Like most things run by the government, we only pay a fraction of the cost. Social security, medicare, aviation fuel taxes, road fuel taxes to name a few programs. Take social security as an example, most will pay in about 1/3 of what they take out. That needs an awful lot of compound interest to make up the difference. Aviation fuel taxes, about 20 cents per gallon to the feds. How much do you fly at what burn rate for GA? One hundred hours per year at 10 gph? That’s only 200 dollars to be spread among maintenance, the cost to run FSS, and the labor cost for ATC. We are great at making up the difference by borrowing from China. Try to run any business that way.

  7. Robert West says:

    I think air shows are passe’. The cost in human lives however is the biggest argument I have against them. It’s just not worth it. ‘nough said.

  8. I think Robert is right. Eight years ago, during a particularly bloody season, I wrote in my flying blog about how I thought air shows hurt the public perception of general aviation far more than they help:

    http://lahso.megginson.com/2005/07/11/how-airshows-hurt-aviation/

    (Just to head off some of the angry responses, I have huge respect for the performers, and know I could never match their skill or dedication. I also love seeing old and unusual planes land and take off, and like being able to walk around them in a static display on the ground, so I do appreciate the benefits.)

  9. Ken says:

    I believe Jane Wicker captured it best in her post from earlier this year… We will miss you.

    Why Airshows Are So Important
    February 27, 2013 at 9:13am
    We have come upon a critical time in America both fiscally and morally. Young children are our future and dependent upon us to show them the way to a bright and successful future. They need inspiration, dreams and hope for a successful tomorrow. Most importantly, they need good wholesome role models and heroes. We are constantly bombarded with tainted sports stars, disrespectful and rude reality TV personalities, lying and cheating politicians and incidents of crime and mass shootings. Our children need good people who they can admire, respect and want to emulate. Where can you find these kinds of people? There is no better place than at your local Airshow. This is a place of wholesome family entertainment that costs a fraction of a day at Disney World. In some cases, such as Military Open Houses, they are free events.

    Aviation is an integral part of our lives. The fighter pilots who protect our freedom, the rescue helicopters that save our lives, the fire fighters in the sky, the airline pilots who get you where you need to go, and the cargo pilots who bring you your packages are just some of the facets that many take for granted. Airshows are a place to showcase and encourage others to pursue these goals.

    But it extends beyond aviation. Many young children are inspired not only to chase their aviation dreams, but when they meet these amazing people at the airshows and witness first-hand the incredible things that can be accomplished; they see that there is so much more to life. They learn that no matter what goals they may be aspiring to, anything can be accomplished and they too have the ability within themselves. Whether it is a choice to join the ranks of the military and protect the country, or to become a business executive, there are no limits.

    Airshows allow more personal contact to these role models and heroes than any other venue. The typical person can’t just walk up and shake hands with NFL players or NASCAR Drivers. But, at an airshow they can not only meet them, but talk and interact with them. It makes for a more personal connection between the child and hero and in turn creates a stronger and long term impact. That direct one-on-one contact has changed so many lives. Ask anyone in the aviation business and they will tell you there was one defining moment that changed their lives forever. Many of them will tell you that it was when their parents took them to their first Airshow.

    As I see it, the problem with our society is not things like lack of gun control. It is the acceptance of bad behavior. We are accepting and rewarding those that choose a life of low values and bad language. Instead, we need to be teaching our kids right from wrong and good versus evil. The more we are accepting of lower standards the more rampant they will become. Do you want your child emulating Honey Boo Boo or Snookie? Or, would you rather them emulate one of the upstanding members of the Thunderbirds? It is up to us to show them the way. It is very disheartening to see Airshows being cancelled and programs like Honey Boo Boo going international. What kind of message are we sending to our American children and the rest of the world? What kind of lifestyles are we encouraging our youth to aspire to?

    Airshows will go on and they will stand the test of time. This is a very difficult year, but I hold out hope that as we readdress what is important and redesign the shows, there are many that will find we can make it through without reliance on Military support. There are numerous civilian acts that are just as thrilling to watch, offer incredible role models, give people a wide variety of talent to showcase and can fill your show with a full day of high quality entertainment. I have been to and performed at many shows without any military support that were extremely successful. It can be done and I encourage everyone in this difficult time to support their airshows with or without the jet teams or military acts. Come see the amazing talents of the rest of the performers. There are incredible aerobatics, comedy acts, jet vehicles, wing walkers, war birds, sky divers and yes even civilian jet teams. This is also a chance to support your local airport and community, not to mention spend a fun filled day of entertainment with your family. Then when the military aircraft are back on board, it will get even better!

    Don’t let the congressional stand-off take away our dreams and passions and most importantly do not let them stop us from inspiring our young children. This is a time to think outside the box, be creative and most importantly reach for the skies.

    • V M Bryan says:

      Great post

    • Doyle Frost says:

      Thank you, thank you, thank you. Just wish there were more with these points of view, especially where it counts, in politics, and in the education industry, which seems to have more “Liberal Arts” mentality, (or is it basket weaving,) than engineering or other sciences.
      We have allowed ourselves to be turned into a society of “watchers,” rather than “doers.” And our young seem intent on following in our footsteps. Now, there is a rapidly disappearing element that might have turned things around, an outstanding source of interesting engineering and science talent, the airshow.

  10. Mike Barlow says:

    Obviously, we’re all pilots here and we deeply believe in the overall value of aviation, or we wouldn’t be reading this. So let’s jump over the sentimental hurdles and look at this from a business marketing perspective. Instead of blaming “lazy kids and their video games,” let’s tackle some of the following questions:
    1. What are the specific marketing challenges we need to overcome in order to attract larger paying audiences to air shows? In other words, how do we increase demand for air show entertainment?
    2. How would NASCAR, the MLB or the NHL handle those types of marketing challenges and what would they do to attract more fans?
    3. What can we do as pilots to restore some of glamor, romance and excitement of aviation? How do we make aviation “cool” again?
    4. How can we do a better job of explaining the economic value of a strong aviation industry and explain how aviation is comprised of more than just the major airlines and a handful of overnight delivery services? Maybe we need to create a graphic showing the “aviation value chain” and send a copy of it to every business analyst and business writer.
    5. Finally, does the air show industry have an effective umbrella group that actively markets air shows to the general public?

    • Ken says:

      Mike,

      I think what I hear you saying is passion itself won’t solve the problems, it will take a BD (Business Development) strategy and execution to drive change.

      I believe we have the necessary talent within the Pilot community. The challenge will be to create a venue whereby a team could be assembled to layout the steps, define the stakeholders and assign ownership.

      The goal should be to go beyond recouping costs, rather how to invigorate and inspire this market segment and those who just love aviation. There is business potential and growth opportunities if this is done correctly, in addition to the community benefit and public enjoyment.

  11. Meredith says:

    Risk is not an acceptable reason to cancel airshows. Risk can be mitigated (and should be, responsibly). But life is a risk- the drive on the way to the airshow is probably the most dangerous leg for spectators.

    I live in Eastern North Carolina where we have many great airshows- air bases Cherry Point, Seymour Johnson, and New River all have their own show dates. But I saw a giant difference in the last few years from the previous shows. Fewer displays and fewer performances. I think most has to do with the recession. Airshows like these are still huge recruiting tools and I hope they will bounce back eventually.

    • I’m not a prohibitionist in any area, so I’d never try to force people to cancel air shows. My concern isn’t the risk per se, but the fact that airshows are about the worst vehicle imaginable for promoting GA.

      When people see a car crash at NASCAR, they generally don’t start panicking and thinking that cars are excessively dangerous, because they drive every day and know that what’s happening on the track is different from normal driving.

      When people see a plane crash at an air show, on the other hand (and there are a few every summer), they often do start panicking and thinking that so-called “small” planes are extremely dangerous. For many people (either in attendance, or watching the evening news at home), air shows are their only contact with GA, and they form their opinion of what we do, including risk, based mainly on the clips of air show disasters on the evening news (where, unlike with normal accidents, there are lots of cameras present to capture all the gory details).

      My concern with air shows is that they feed into the paranoid community mindset that already has us dealing with more and more airport closures and airspace restrictions. We lost Meigs primarily because the Mayor of Chicago thought (irrationally) it was too dangerous having GA that close to his office. Usually, a single person doesn’t have that much power to hurt us, but community groups and city councils sometimes do, it doesn’t make sense to throw fuel on the fire.

      I think fly days, open houses, and things like that, are a much more-effective form of outreach. Instead of emphasizing the extreme and the dangerous, show GA the way it normally is – sightseeing, business travel, Angel flights, etc. – normal, non-extreme parts of the community’s life.

      • Jeff Moss says:

        I completely disagree with David’s assertion that airshows hurt GA – if all it takes to make someone not want to fly is to see an accident, then I guess the Asiana Crash and recent nose gear failure in NY should have us all avoiding Commercial Aviation. Those accidents yield the same level of coverage if not more in the media. Yes, I am a performer, RW not FW. Over the last ten years, more kids have started taking flying lessons after sitting in an acft at an airshow or taking a young eagle flight than I can count – including my own son…..your assertions aren’t supported in fact….but most opinions aren’t.

        • I respect Jeff’s disagreement, but I don’t think the example works. In the case of the Asiana crash, a huge part of the population flies on the airlines often enough to know that the crash isn’t typical (just like my earlier example with a NASCAR crash).

          Unfortunately, people don’t have that kind of familiarity with GA, so they judge based on the (rare) things they see in the news. That’s why I think we need to expose people to more of the non-spectacular parts of GA, like fly days, Angel Flights, sightseeing, personal family or business travel, CASARA (or whatever your US equivalent is), etc. That will help give the public enough context to recognize things like crashes — inside or outside air shows — for the rare, atypical things they are.

          Especially for middle-aged guys like me, I think it’s time to let go of the adolescent Top Gun fantasies and promote GA for what it really is.

          • Doyle Frost says:

            Jeff, I agree, but here’s an idea: get the local media, (the largest supplier of false and scary information about aviation) and start getting them on our side. Taka a local reporter for a trip around the area, and if you have a good “fall foliage” season, all the better, especially if they have a byline. At the same time, invite some young people to visit your hangar, with their parents, and make sure you have some of your older friends with you.

  12. Stephen Phoenix says:

    The small civilian airshows are a benefit to General Aviation by virtue of keeping the local residents somewhat exposed to their local airport. This helps reduce animosity and even entices some to become participants. And generally these shows don’t need much or any government money to operate. So these are all goodness as far as GA goes. If the locals stop going because it does not offer the desired level of entertainment or lack of interest well, that’s the way it is; change happens. The people in the business of selling airplane services, instruction and airplanes at these airports should have a vested interest in keeping their wares interesting to the spectators.

    The military airshows were originally intended for one reason, to entice potential new recruits to sign up; ok and to occaisionally entertain base personnel and their families. If the military backs out of the big civilian airshows, that’s their problem. Maybe the big civilian airshows can’t make it without the military; still not a problem.

  13. Greg says:

    I just got back from Oshkosh this afternoon. I’m not quite 40 yet, and I was one of the youngest at the EAA show by far. The show is catered to and built around the age group of the “golden age of flying”. I get it, I really do. These are the guys hat have the bucks that the Cessna, Cirrus, Piper, Beech, etc. folk are trying to woo… The air shows will die without a new branding…. After watching the awesome performers, talk about adrenaline and excitement!,, if the Super Bowl and the World Series can be hyped into a multi billion dollar industry, I think flying could do the same. Look at MMA and what it has become.

    Now, in my opinion, aviation has to change its image. It is full of nostalgia, and I’m a fan of warbirds, nose art, and the glory days, chock full of history. If I were to take my son there, he would be bored in 6.5 minutes. The warbirds are awesome, but an untouchable reality to the kids of today. These machines are something that are out of reach, and not practical. While going to the merchandise tents, I had to search high and low for a souvenir that was passable to bring home. My cohorts on the trip had the same feelings that the merchandise was cheesy and dated. Get a marketing firm for crying out loud! By the way the next closest in age to me was 46..,

    We need the kids! How has aviation missed the boat? In the world of reality shows, how could anything be more real or exciting than piloting an aircraft? Who needs video games? Teach the possibilities of flight through simple and fun concepts. How cool is a pilot? Movies for years have been using this topic for mucho dinero….

    We need to make aviation fun, exciting, sexy, dangerous and intriguing again. Do that with a little demographic shift and some flash, corporate sponsors, and aviation will have its heyday once again.

    This is an important topic, so we all need to weigh in with ideas!

    God Bless America and its freedoms to fly!

    • Darrell says:

      Great comments. Yes, this is a very important topic for all of us – now! We need youth’s interest, desperately and we will not get it unless we can make ” it cool” again, as stated. We must shake off the old, dated images/perceptions and rebrand to the current. I see hope: in a word, “Icon”. I think those guys get it; sell fun – not work to fly, excitement, current, boldness, cool look/cool feel, dynamic people, simplified operation, etc. We NEED them to succeed. That airplane and the image it conveys is a net good. Another opportunity I think exists is to highlight flying just for the sake of fun, e.g., aerobatics and bush ops. The image of just flying to Grandma’s is far too sedate.

      One thing caught my (and my friends’) attention in high school about aviation, and that was acro. I think that excitement can be generated in youth again, but it is effectively unknown today. It can return but not just through $450k Extras, rather via affordable and venerable Citabrias, Decathlons, Great Lakes, Pitts, Stardusters, etc., which reside in dusty hangars in every state. We need to get them out, share the experience and the unforgettable rush of that first loop with others. On the bush side, let’s highlight the Bob Hannah’s amongst us (google him) and pull in his current counterparts of action sports. The old (or new, it’s still the same) Skyhawk or Warrior image isn’t going to capture the attention of those we need. The individual alternative for each of us is apathetic subordination of our once held passion to the ignominious ends to which our govt leadership is seemingly happy to clear us; DIRECT TO.

  14. Kayak Jack says:

    Greg has good ideas here. Others have said similar themes.

    It is vital to the longevity of ANYTHING that young people be brought in regularly. Older folks get tired and back off of activity, and we pass on. WE NEED YOUNG FOLKS TO BE CONSTANTLY ADDED TO THE GROUP.

    Whatever excites young folks about aviation – do more of that. Whatever bores them senseless – stop doing that. For any enterprise to succeed, it has to please the customer. Otherwise, the customer goes somewhere else.

    I said above that if youngsters had an app about airshow, they would watch that instead of coming to a real air show. I stand by that. Many have been spoiled and think they are owed entertainment. they do not dream of doing great and exciting things. “Doing it” electronically is enough for them. Well, excite them. We’re not talking logical stuff here, guys, we’re talking emotional stuff.

  15. Meredith says:

    It is a good point that young people need to be brought in to revitalize GA, and an argument I have heard many times before. Perhaps a new approach to airshows can be part of the solution, but it isn’t just a PR problem. It’s a fundamental cultural shift.

    Many things are on the decline in America, and it isn’t just aviation. Risk taking, a daredevil spirit and rugged individualism are just a few. All play a part in aviation history and in the founding of our country. The reduced tolerance for risk is a relatively new feature in today’s society. Where would we be without the great risk and sacrifices made by our ancestors? I fear we are headed for a world where virtual thrills exclusively replace real ones. At what point do we reduce risk so much that the reward no longer exists? Safety is important but it cannot be the primary goal in life, in business, or even in play. This is also the main problem with the FAA’s charter and why they have no incentive to reduce cost barriers to aviation.

    I don’t know of a solution to this issue, as our world becomes more risk averse by the day. But targeting groups of young people already involved in related activities might be one approach. The “Maker” movement is one. Working aviation into new STEM programs in high schools is another. I believe the EAA is already addressing these areas to some extent.

  16. Kayak Jack says:

    I agree with involving kids in both building of aircraft, and then learning to fly them. Similar programs, using ancient construction techniques, with kids were used to teach kids in Alaska to build and use kayaks, and in Hawaii to build and sail outrigger canoes. The kids were both surprised at how difficult it was, and how fascinating it was.

    Stories kids hear as children, significant characters in TV shows and movies give kids impressions as to what an adult – either man or woman – is supposed to be like. America’s first rugged individualist was in the Leather Stocking Tales. American kids need heroes who are honest, not druggies.

    A decline in GA is a symptom of a wider set of problems. Fixing general aviation, is part of fixing America.

  17. ScrewedBySierraAcademy says:

    GA is a rich(sorry! job creator) man’s passtime now. As long as we live in a country where people lucky enough to be successful keep slamming, and deadbolting the door of opportunity behind them, It will get a lot worse.

  18. Chris says:

    It’s possible it will die out. With unemployment high and leisure spending low, it’s a bit difficult to enjoy something that is not even obtainable. Overall, I think most people, not all, are loosing pride in the country. Fighter jets definitely represent military power and our ability to maintain our freedoms. There just seems to be a major shift away from that.

  19. Joseph says:

    Since most of the airshows are ran by volunteers have any of the venue’s thought about extending this and asking the controllers to volunteer? There is probably some rules against it either from the FAA or unions but just a thought. Most smaller airshows really shouldn’t need extra controllers so is the FAA really charging the average small town airshow fees now?

    The biggest fault as an industry is we only market to ourselves. I seek out airshows and still miss them occasionally. Airshows can be annoying because it seems everyone in aviation is trying to sell something when you are there. Cost, environmental concerns, and lack of exposure is why people don’t fly. That and when someone is interested and asks a pilot how much does it cost to own and operate your plane the canned response is always if you have to ask you can’t afford it. In reality its about the same as owning a $80k boat.

    Airshows will probably rebound, they are always packed it seems even with out efficient marketing. There is even a fly in at the local airport that attracts hundreds of people and there is no airshow, just a lot of parked airplanes. I’m pretty sure its not the pancakes or the $4 soda’s, so there is still interest.

    With that said the AOPA, EAA, or other group (or maybe join forces) should offer an official Airshow and Aviation event calendar. This calendar should be both print and also on a well maintained website with good location filtering features. They need to put some effort into making sure it’s accurate and not just an add your own event system. Then they should put some effort in advertising airshows outside of the aviation circles and not the day after (yes I’ve heard an ad for an airshow on the radio the day after it occurred and I didn’t know about it). They should run a rolling version of this calendar in ads online and in print. They should focus their budget on non-aviation websites, magazines, and newspapers. Maybe even offer a mailing list for people to sign up to receive a printed aviation event guide. I bet many that go to NASCAR would sign up. Personally I like the non military part of the airshow just as much if not more.

    Just think how many people not hooked on aviation read this site or one of the aviation magazines? When is the last time you saw an aviation ad not in an aviation publication.

  20. Todd says:

    One place where the decline of interest in airshows is readily apparent is by looking at Google Trends to look at search traffic over the years for terms like AirVenture and Airshow.

    In both cases looking back at nearly a decade of data the declining trend is obvious. I agree with many of the previous comments that Airshows may need to look at ways to reinvent themselves to find a new way to generate interest.

    View the Google Search Trends for key airshow terms here: http://www.myflightblog.com/archives/interest-in-airshows-is-in-a-free-fall.php

    • Joseph says:

      I have no doubt that interest in airshows have faded, like many things it comes and goes. Google trends can be a good statistical sample though its not the entire picture you have to be able to track search engine popularity vs target demographic. We internet geeks sometime forget that the internet isn’t the single source of information. We also forget that not everyone goes through Google to find what they are looking for. The many people don’t always search for airshows in search engines. Bing has gained some traction and I have a feeling that many use it because its the default search engine on a new computer. Also many people are choosing to only have a smart phone or a tablet and not a computer, this changes the way they find information. Personally I usually go to the EAA’s site and look for airshows, and then I go directly to the sites for the ones I go to every year.

      However we do need to market Aviation and not expect people to seek it out. Also many people expect to hear about airshows from the radio, newspaper, or FaceBook. (yes I always post any airshow within 100 miles to my face book feed if I know about it, and several of my non aviation friends have gone because of this) For most people airshows are not something you plan a vacation around.

  21. The original purpose and the main reason to have airshows for the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels was that it attracts the best and the brightest young intelligent people who want to be military pilots. These air shows are great marketing tools for corporations and municipalities. The cuts due to sequestration is obviously politically motivated as everyone knows. At the same time we can’t afford a flyover by the T Birds at the Air Force Academy, our irresponsible big spending president manages to spend $100,000,000 for a vacation to Africa at the expense of the American people. Yes air shows are both necessary and beneficial. The last air show I attended at Maxwell AFB, AL. the military had a great show and the place was packed.

  22. John W says:

    Airshows are in decline because the population of pilots is in decline.

    People like to blame the government for the decline in the pilot population. Nonsense. The government has been involved all through the history of aviation, including the heyday when 15,000 new airplanes were made a year.

    Textron/Cessna is killing General Aviation. In 1982, a brand-new Cessna Skyhawk was more affordable to a MINIMUM-WAGE WORKER than a new Skyhawk is today for someone making a middle class salary of $20/hour. Cessna came right out and admitted that they tacked an additional $20,000 onto the price of their already-overpriced Skycatcher solely for profit.

    Henry Ford had the right idea: Build enough of your product to bring the unit price down to where people can afford it — and then pay your employees enough to buy the products they make. Ford showed that charging less and paying more increased profits.

    The Skyhawk was designed as an entry-level family plane; something to fly until you could step up to s Skylane or larger. Today, a family can’t afford a Skyhawk. Textron/Cessna has made them too expensive for their target market to buy.

    Yes, Cessna is killing GA. And they might even be doing it intentionally. Fewer ‘Sunday pilots’ means less exposure to liability, which means lower insurance costs and fewer judgments against them, which means more money for the stockholders. They can concentrate on building larger, more complex, faster, and more importantly more-expensive airplanes that require much more experience to fly.

    They’re just not interested in selling aircraft.

  23. Steve Ells says:

    I just returned from AirVenture 2013 and thought the EAA and Jack Pelton added features, such as the Jumbotron, that moved the show forward. I did not miss the military, nor have I ever liked the smoke and bombs reenactments of the “glory days” of WWII.
    I’ve attended every AirVenture since 1996 and the focus has changed from an EAA (that’s EXPERIMENTAL Aircraft Association) focused show to a giant corporate money maker. Big Money–and the increase in prices for more favored sites–has now forced legitimate aviation companies to the outskirts of the show. For example, Ford Motor Company now has the biggest footprint on the entire grounds. Ford hasn’t made an airplane with its name on the side for 80 years but they know a promotion opportunity when they see one. Is the practice of selling prime AirVenture real estate to non-aviation vendors detrimental to AirVenture? If not, what’s next? Will the future bring “The Ford Motor Company AirVenture???”
    Now I’ll get off my soapbox and address the question.
    I believe that small community airshows will live forever because they’re affordable–not everyone can or will travel halfway across the US for a week long aviation celebration like AirVenture– accessible and because a small well-run local airshow connects community service organizations,neighbors and airplanes.
    Jolie Lucas and Mitch Latting have done an outstanding job of pulling local folks who don’t often think about the benefits of their community airport to a small community airshow at the Oceano Airport (L52)in California. Their goal is: 1: Drum up community support for the airport to keep a developer from turning the airport into another mall or housing project; 2) Get the man and woman off the street and young folks familiar with airplanes by providing a place where kids of all ages can get a close up and personal view of “real” people-sized airplanes. They get to talk to pilots–and find out that they’re average people that have a passion for the freedom of flight, and provide an easy way for everyone from the single mom to the WWII veteran to get involved with airplanes at a local level.
    For more info see: http://www.FriendsofOceanoAirport.com.

  24. phil says:

    Can I give you a different perspective on airshows.
    I travelled from Austalia to Nebraska in Sept 2011 to see the blue angels and it was awesome. huge crowd, plenty of planes, great flying. Totally awesome but by the 2nd day the aura of the airshow was already wearing a bit thin. It could have been a bit of jet lag or the heat with me coming out of the Australian winter and into the Nebraska summer. The air show was called Guardians of Freedom and the local chamber of commerce organised it. It was huge the crowd was easily 30,000 people and the show is put on every five years.
    I got the impression that the airshow is primarily a recruiting tool. The Navy was there with a SUV full of play stations(?). The marines had a chin up bar and a harley to get photographed on.

    Can’t imagine that the show would be much different from year to year, so I don’t know if you could expect much of a crowd if it was on more often. That and the military aren’t needing a lot of new recruits now that Afghan is winding down.

  25. phil says:

    Can I also mention that car shows are dying as well. People just aren’t that interested in personal transportation any more.
    I have a friend who works in a company that does trade shows/exhibitions and he reckons that business is definitely declining. When money is tight business cut back on marketing through trade shows.

  26. Matt P says:

    @Phil, there’s a waiting list to get into all branches of the US military. Also, there’s a significant percentage of enlisted personnel who won’t be allowed to reenlist, so there’s not much need for recruiting tools right now.

  27. Ron M says:

    I do not believe that air shows are dying. I went to the Chino Air Show this year and the place was crowded with people. I even signed up for the sunrise photo shoot and they got all the required people. I could not even get a tent seating due to it being crowded. This has been experienced with airshows in the past couple year that I have visited. I do not believe that airshows is dying. I even have seen people at airports watching aircraft land and depart. Our current administration and people that live under a rock believe its dying and its NOT!!

  28. Bill Douglas says:

    It is another effort by Barrick Huessin Obama to destory the military. I have seen this over and over again since 1970 by the democrat party in destorying the military. Air shows are used to promote flying, and used for recruiting tools for young people to join the military. I started my military career in the USAF from 70-84; then went to the army and completed over 33 years in the service to our country ending it in 2005. I would never vote for a democrat president, congressman or senator they are turn coats. Republicans are getting to be a bunch of flip-floppers, say one thing and do another. It is sad seeing our country going down hill.

    • John W says:

      ‘Barrick Huessin Obama’ (It’s spelled ‘Barack Hussein Obama’, by the way. And incidentally, it’s DemocratIC president — the name of the party is the DemocratIC Party.)) Yes, yes, we get it. There’s a Black man with a Brown name in the White House.

      Your post has nothing to do with the decline of air shows.

  29. Peter Zabriskie says:

    I too will hold this to the President’s feet, to cancel indefinitely the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds is tantamount to treason IMHO. These two magnificent flying groups are National Symbols of Pride on par with our Flag. They are diplomats to the World demonstrating the best aspect of commitment to defend freedom. To dishonor the American People by withdrawing them without grounding Air Force One in favor of a Cessna Citation (of which they have plenty) is a gross malfeasance of leadership. The President is ready to wrap himself in the Flag when it serves his purpose, but not when it honors our Country.

    • Peter Zabriskie says:

      I will stand by my comment. Tantamount, meaning close to, and treason, meaning failure to defended and uphold the Constitution. A President who fails to salute the Flag, namely offer allegiance to the symbol of the ultimate sacrifice of the Citizens who made his office possible, is a traitor. Taking away the symbols of Freedom of the Citizenry, all the while flying a dinosaur of the Cold War himself, is a traitor. P.S. any smaller aircraft is well up to the needs of the President, Air Force One is outdated, over used, over cost…and let the da*m Press get their own ride!

    • phil says:

      Obama didn’t cancel the Blue Angels, Congress agreed to the sequester. The US is deeply in debt, maintaining military prestige should always come second to maintain essential services to tax payers.

  30. John W says:

    The Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds are indeed magnificent demonstration teams. (Of course coming from a Navy family, the Blue Angels are the better team. =;^) — As an aside, the A-4 Skyhawks and the T-38 Talons were better aircraft for the routines in my opinion. The routines seemed ‘faster’ with the smaller aircraft. Though the F-16s are the right size, but I liked the T-38s better. I know that the point is to show the current hardware, of course.) But ‘treason’? Treason has a specific definition, and this ain’t it.

    Cancelling the shows is not disrespecting the American people. Instead, it is respecting us by spending our tax dollars on operational units and other things that have higher priority than entertainment. Flying airplanes costs money, and we don’t have the money. When I’m short of money, entertainment like going to the movies or going out to dinner, and yes, flying, get cut back. If I had the money, I’d fly every day. As a country, we need to increase revenue if we want to have everything we want. As for a Cessna Citation being Air Force One, a Citation is not large enough for the mission.

    But I don’t think that cancelling military teams is causing the death of air shows. Mission requirements and budgetary restrictions have cancelled demonstrations by the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds before. The reason air shows are declining is that the number of pilots in this country is declining. Fewer pilots means fewer people interested in spending the day looking at airplanes. So why are there fewer pilots?

    When I was a kid we didn’t have X-Boxes or computers. If you wanted to play a video game, you had to go to an arcade. You interacted with friends by seeing them in person. Now we have Facebook and Twitter and mobile phones and texting, and we can play with our friends in online games. We don’t go to the movies, because we can watch what we want on Netflix. Actually going out and DOING something — something REAL — is not part of our modern culture.

    But there’s another problem, which I stated in my first post. Airplane manufacturers don’t want to sell airplanes. I said that in 1982 a brand-new Cessna Skyhawk was more affordable for a minimum wage worker than a brand-new Skyhawk is for a middle-class wage-earner today. (And yes, I’ve done the math.) In 1982, a Skyhawk represented a bit over 10,000 hours for someone making $3.35/hour. Today, a Skyhawk represents more than 14,000 hours for someone making $20/hour. As I said, the Skyhawk is an entry-level ‘family sedan’. Before Textron bought them out, a new Cessna could be afforded by anyone with a middle-class salary for whom flying was a priority. The high production numbers ensured that middle-class workers who could not afford a new airplane could buy a used one. Today, only the wealthy can buy an entry-level four-seater.

    I mentioned Henry Ford, who believed that his cars should be affordable for the people who built them. Cessna et al, have not followed that model, and they wonder why they aren’t selling airplanes. More than that, they don’t WANT to sell them. People who buy a Cessna 172 are people who fly for fun. They might have an Instrument rating, but as a group they don’t tend to be ATPs. Fewer hours and less training means that these flyers are more likely to make mistakes than someone with multiple ratings and thousands of hours might. Mistakes means lawsuits, and we know how lawsuits prompted The Big Three to stop making airplanes for a while. By pricing their airplanes too high for the target market to buy, the airplane makers reduce their liability. It doesn’t matter that they won’t have new pilots to fly their more expensive corporate aircraft later. They’re making profits NOW. They can always sell the division (and make lots of money for their stockholders) once they strip all of the meat off the skeleton of these once-great companies.

    The sad thing is that by discouraging low time pilots, and by discouraging people from learning to fly, people don’t even KNOW about ‘little airplanes’. Personal flying has declined to the state where GA isn’t even on most people’s radar. Flying has always been expensive; but in the last 20-30 years it has become much, much more expensive in relation to income than it had been historically. Add in the distractions of modern electronics, which make it easy to fly a virtual airplane instead of putting in all of the hard work to fly a real one, and it’s no wonder that the pilot population is declining. We can’t do anything about modern society. The only way to attract people to flying is to make it affordable for them to learn, to rent, and to buy airplanes.

    So I stand by my statement. Cessna is killing General Aviation. Kudos to Beechcraft, which says it will build more Bonanzas as part of their reorganisation; but who can afford a Bonanza? Until airplane makers make their profits by selling a lot of airplanes for an affordable price, instead of selling a few airplanes for a very high price, fewer people will get into aviation.

    • Peter Zabriskie says:

      I will stand by my comment. Tantamount, meaning close to, and treason, meaning failure to defended and uphold the Constitution. A President who fails to salute the Flag, namely offer allegiance to the symbol of the ultimate sacrifice of the Citizens who made his office possible, is a traitor. Taking away the symbols of Freedom of the Citizenry, all the while flying a dinosaur of the Cold War himself, is a traitor. P.S. any smaller aircraft is well up to the needs of the President, Air Force One is outdated, over used, over cost…and let the da*m Press get their own ride!