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Air Shows Experiencing Record Attendance Early Into 2015 Season

April 3rd, 2015

Just a few weeks into the 2015 season, air shows across the country are reporting record attendance.

In February, organizers of the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, Ari., Air Show and Open House concluded their 53rd annual event with a 17 percent attendance increase from their 2014 show.

More recently, in Tuscaloosa, Ala., WCFT-ABC 30 ran a segment lauding the event’s record-setting attendance, which organizers say was up a 22 to 25 percent from last year. And, in Biloxi, Miss., the Sun-Herald reported that the Keesler Air Force Base (AFB) Thunder on the Bay air show hosted over 155,000 spectators. Los Angeles County Air Show executive director, Dennis Dunbar, estimated to a local newspaper that over 30,000 more people came out to the show this year than in 2014.

Increased attendance numbers are great news for the organizations hosting air shows whether they are private ventures or hosted by a local municipality. After all, more spectators typically mean more revenue. After three years of federal government sequestration and the absence of military aircraft demonstration teams many air shows were forced to either ratchet down the number and type of performers they could bring in or cancel their event altogether and hope they could ride out the budget cuts.

The economic and social impact of an air show, especially in smaller communities, can be significant. Performers and their crews coming into town from all over the U.S. need hotel rooms, convenience stores and restaurants see a boost in sales, and local vendors providing goods and services to the air show can make a significant portion of their yearly earnings because of such a large event. Deidre Stalnaker, Communications Director for the City of Tuscaloosa, told ABC 30 that the city estimates the Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show will have a $10 million impact on the local economy.

To many air show organizers and aviation enthusiasts, the financial side of things may be secondary. Inspiring young people to explore aviation, many times, is just as important as economics. In Los Angeles County, for example, Dunbar said organizers are working on a scholarship program that would put out scholarships for STEM-based educational opportunities.

“Bringing economic impact to the community is one thing, but you can’t count the number of kids who are inspired by the air show,” Dunbar said.

At Keesler AFB, representatives said bringing the Thunderbirds and having an enlistment ceremony at the show served another purpose: to inspire young people to join the Air Force.

Decorated Red Bull helicopter pilot Chuck “Malibu” Aaron, a prominent aerial stunt performer in entertainment during the last decade, at the MCAS Yuma Air Show said, “My mantra, so to speak, is that I want to get young kids excited about aviation. I want somebody to see me and what I do, start thinking outside of the box, hopefully get inspired to get passionate about aviation and dream up new instruments, aircraft or air dynamic designs; something that will help us expand our world.”

To discover an air show in or near your hometown, visit www.airshows.aero/Page/ASCalendar.

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