The Vectren Dayton Air Show will take to the skies in 2014 with or without a military jet team, organizers said Wednesday.
Air show organizers decided aerial performers should keep flying next June 28-29 in the birthplace of aviation, but had considered scrubbing next year’s show. Organizers planned to wait until they knew if the Navy’s Blue Angels will appear in 2014, or move ahead without the audience draw of military jets, said Air Show Executive Director Terry Grevious.
“Dayton is the birthplace of aviation, it’s an aviation town, there’s always been an air show in town and the (air show) board felt very strongly that tradition should continue,” Grevious said. “With the military being gone, it doesn’t mean the end of the Dayton Air Show. It just means we have to adjust and move forward.”
The 2013 air show was impacted by a fatal crash that killed a wing walker and her stunt pilot before thousands of spectators, the Air Force Thunderbirds canceled its show season because of budget cuts, and attendance plummeted to about 23,000 people.
The air show also dealt with a flap over a planned B-29 reenactment of the World War II atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima that organizers scrapped after a public outcry.
Next June will mark the 40th anniversary of the air show at Dayton International Airport. The event draws as many as 70,000 spectators or more when a headline act such as the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels appear.
“It really is the fabric of the community and they feel that it’s important that we have an air show,” said Air Show General Manager Brenda Kerfoot.
This year’s show had a “significant” loss, Grevious said, but officials would not say how much. The event’s fund balance covered the loss. Organizers spent about a million dollars this year to showcase civilian aerial performers with the help of corporate sponsorships.
Even if organizers don’t know until next spring if the Blue Angels will appear, the air show would accommodate the team in the line-up, Grevious said.
The Blue Angels extended pilots’ tours of duty into the next show season for training and safety reasons and hope to resume demonstrations when the budget permits, team spokeswoman Lt. Katie Kelly said Wednesday in a telephone interview from Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla. “We’re definitely very hopeful and very excited for the 2014 air show season,” she said.
Dayton organizers will trim expenses next year by moving parking closer to the show site to cut shuttle bus expenses, reducing a lunch program for participants, and cutting work hours of paid staff, Grevious said. “We’re a small business,” he said. “We don’t have any grants or federal or state money. We have to operate within our means.”
Spectators shouldn’t notice a difference in the quality of the show, Kerfoot said. “Much of what people have come to expect when they come to the show will be there,” she said.
The decision to move forward bucks a trends among more than 60 air shows this year that canceled because of no military aircraft flyovers, according to the International Council of Air Shows.
The National Transportation and Safety Board, meanwhile, has continued an investigation into the crash that killed wing walker Jane Wicker, 44, of Bristol, Va., and pilot Charlie Schwenker, 64, of Oakton, Va. The Stearman biplane abruptly dipped a wing, crashed into the ground and burst into flames June 22 at the end of a tear-drop style turn near show center.
No spectators were injured in the crash which happened just inside a 500-foot safety zone from the crowd line, Dayton Daily News photos showed.