Sean D. Tucker flies his second to last solo performance in the Oracle Challenger III biplane in Dayton on Saturday at the Vectren Dayton Air Show. The plane is to be retired to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in December. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Ty Greenlees
Photo: Ty Greenlees

Dayton Air Show’s Saturday crowd potentially hits record for day

The threat of rain didn’t keep aviation fans away from the first day of the 2019 Vectren Dayton Air Show Saturday, which drew what could be a record crowd.

“I think it’s record crowd for the day … I think it’s probably more than we’ve had. Great day, couldn’t ask for better weather,” said Scott Buchanan, the air show’s board chairman.

Last year roughly 62,000 people attended the weekend’s events, adding up to a $3.7 million economic impact, Buchanan previously told the Dayton Daily News.

The tens of thousands of people at the show Saturday saw the second-to-last solo performance that star aerobatic pilot Sean D. Tucker will ever fly at the Dayton show. Today’s spectators will see the last.

Tucker is retiring from his solo career and his Oracle Challenger III will be put on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Tucker will continue flying at air shows, though in formation with his new partner Jessy Panzer, the only civilian female formation pilot in the United States.

Sean Reno from Columbus, whose family has taken a “guy’s trip” to the air show every year for the last five, said Tucker is one of the acts that keeps the family coming back to Dayton. Tucker’s main performance Saturday was with partner Panzer, but he also flew solo to cut the ribbon and preview the show.

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“The double hammerhead — it has come natural to him, it feels like. It’s effortless. Besides the jets we come to see, it’s one of the highlights of the airshow. … Everyone knows that name,” Sean said. “It’s ridiculous what he can do in that little plane.”

Fifteen-year-old Grant Boon and 16-year-old Jackson Crest were planning on going to the air Sshow Saturday rain or shine, and the rain held off throughout the day with the sun coming out in the afternoon. They, along with many others, were most excited about the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

This year is the first time the Thunderbirds have flown at the Dayton Air Show since 2015. They were supposed to perform in 2017, but a practice mishap the day before the show prevented the squad from flying.

Boon had seen the Thunderbirds perform once before, but this was the first time he’d ever been inside the gates of the show. Usually he watches from outside the airfield.

“I’ve actually only been here one other time. It’s been several years — four or five years, probably. I really enjoyed it but I’m glad to be back. I like watching everything,” Crest said.

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Other popular acts included the Geico Skytypers, Sea Harrier and the U.S. Army Golden Nights.

The day was also a success for the medical teams, with fewer medical visits than most years, according to the show’s doctor, Brandon Amburgey. About an hour before the show ended, there had been no transports to area hospitals and there were fewer than 15 people who needed attention, mostly for scrapes, band-aids and one case of dehydration.

But today’s weather is expected to be warmer and humid, with highs in the low- to mid-80s. There are chances for showers and storms, but they become more likely tonight, according to WHIO’s weather forecast.

“I’m expecting we’ll see a lot more dehydration and heat exhaustion” Sunday, Ambergey said. “Same thing as always, sun screen, plenty of fluids — water and Gatorade — umbrella and hat for shade, ear protection for you and your kids.”

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