This communiqué is several weeks late. As I mentioned to you, I was away
at the ICAS Academy, took a bit of vacation, and have been struggling to
catch up on my Airport Director duties. The real Airport world cranks along
even during airshow prep and production. One of my real challenges as we
continue to develop the show is to find a way for us to do the annual show
and not to neglect the normal management of the Airport. I am looking into
several avenues during this post-show evaluation period.
In my three years at Smith Reynolds, I think this the 2002 show is the best
we have produced. For some airshows, all seems to come together:
weather, advertising, promotion, correct mix of performers, etc. 2002 was
one of those years. We are calling our attendance 25,000 for 2002. This
compares to 19,000 for 2001 and 10,000 for 2000. Our "leading economic
indicators" show about an 15% to 20% increase over the previous year in the
various revenue sources. The firefighters' combat challenge and the
Tuskegee Airmen (promotion and publicity surrounding the TA Mustang) helped
the gate. We will have the FF combat challenge again next year, however
the time and/or location will be changed.
Some of the lessons learned:
We have to utilize more of the performer box for two reasons: 1) The
performers need more room to do the show, not at one end of the box. During
the show, most of the crowd is concentrated at the extreme northwest end.
2) The show is not making best use of the spectator area. Next year we
will move show center more toward the middle of the box/runway. Our crowd
line is somewhat limited by the terrain, but we must get the attendees more
toward the center of the box. This will provide more room for the growth
in the crowds in future shows and a better usage of the box by the
If we do another concert in connection with the show, we have to learn how
to increase the attendance. I am thinking of a Friday night concert and
pyro show or another Saturday night event with a named musical group.
Perhaps the concert should be promoted separately from the airshow.
Specific sponsorship for the concert is a must. Some old airshow salt
told me that most show attendees will not stay out in the sun 3 or 4 hours
to watch an airshow then go to an evening event for another 2 or 3 hours.
May be some truth to this.
After all these many years, we still do not have a rock solid means to get
an accurate attendance count. The bank of turnstiles we used this year did
not work. I think we will develop a ticketing structure to provide an
accurate count. Seems as if I have some notes on this subject from an ICAS
Our show needs some kind of unusual draw such as the Tuskegee Airmen and
the FF Combat Challenge. I did not realize what an impact this type of
activity has on show attendance.
Last but not least, we are barely tapping the sponsor potential in the
area. Perhaps next year we will be able to mount a strong sponsorship
campaign. I am already looking into this. Meanwhile, my Airport duties
are ever present.
Hugh, no way exists for me to properly thank you for all you did for the
2002 show. Let's say I owe you many green stamps. I surely hope we can
find a way for you to redeem them in the near future!
Edwin R. Cox, Jr.
Smith Reynolds Airport
3801 N. Liberty Street
Winston Salem, NC 27115