World Airshow News

Reprinted from WORLD AIRSHOW NEWS   July/August 2002

The United States Military:

We Got Nothin' To Gripe About!



As the 2002 airshow season opens it seems the ramps are lacking in static display military hardware and each day it seemed another military base "open house" was canceled.  This was a fact of post 09/11 life in the United States.  The most amazing part is that in a time of war, with world wide deployments, the United States military has been motivated to continue supporting airshows and open houses as has been so clearly demonstrated.


What concerns me is the reaction of some within our industry.  A great hue and cry has gone up because of this “lack of military support” is hurting the airshow industry.  Events are calling their Senators and Congressmen “demanding” the military participate in their events; and, to some degree, these demands are being met.  But at what cost?


Several years ago, during the height of the “Top Gun” craze, I was working with a show that had heavily advertised the F-14 Tomcat would be on display.  A few days before the event, the show was informed the F-14 would not be able to make the event.  The event’s management went into crisis mode, the phone lines were humming and arms twisted.  I jumped into the fray and called the office of an old family friend.  “Uncle Strom’s” staffers when to work and built a fire under the Pentagon; the show got its F-14 and I was a hero to the event’s management.


I was feeling ever so proud of myself as the Tomcat taxied into center position on the static ramp.  I strutted over to “my” aircraft, basking in the glow of accomplishment before the assembled airshow volunteers.  The F-14 driver recognized me as he climbed down the ladder and I welcomed him to the show. 


He said, “Hugh, I don’t want to be here.  The boat sails Monday for a six month cruise and this was to be a last weekend at home with the kids.  Some SOB called Senator Thurmond’s office and I was ORDERED to make this show.”


Standing before all those people, I did not have the backbone to tell him straight up I was that SOB, but the look in his eye told me he knew.  As I owned up to my Congressional shenanigans, the eyes softened to those of a man resigned to, once again, placing duty before family; and I realized that I was indeed a true SOB.   


With the way our industry is reacting today, I have a lot of company in SOB status.


The US military is stretched way too thin across a broad front.  We have our young people deployed to the far flung corners of the earth protecting our national and personal interest.  Their job is to do our dirty work, to kill the fanatics who have killed Americans and want to kill you and your family.  These fanatics are out to destroy western civilization and are locked in a life and death struggle with our military personal, yet we “go Congressional,” call Washington and demand limited assets and overworked personal be sent to support our airshow.  Something’s wrong with this picture Big Bird.


I’m embarrassed that some members of this industry are displaying self-serving greed on an Enron level. Our sons and daughters are facing a committed perverted enemy and we worry about our airshow’s profitability.  In Afghanistan, our fellow aviators are riding flaming hulks to the ground and we worry about making our aircraft payments.        


The simple fact is that we, the people of the United States, have been abusing our military personnel since the Regan era build-up ended.  Since that time, military pay has continued to slip to the point that many junior enlisted personnel are qualifying for and requiring food stamps; pilots, who love flying military aircraft, are leaving as fast as the airline industry can absorb them.


I then look around most bases and see that sub-standard housing has become the standard, and on-base housing is very limited and in disrepair.


The availability of operational spare parts is a continuing problem.


The constant deployments have put a serious strain on any type of family life.


The government has had to implement "Stop Loss" to force military personnel in critical job areas to stay at their low paying jobs even when their term of service has ended.


We continue to ask these people to do more with less and then we ask then to take on the extra work of supporting airshows and/or staging an open house.


Enough is enough!  We have the cart before the horse: having congress beat up the military for airshow support is backwards.  Instead, we need to be beating up congress to support the military.  Airshow support could then take care of itself.


Yes, "we the people" have abused the military and "we the airshow industry" have been at the head of the gauntlet.


People, its reality check time: its time to quit whining about the loss of military shows and lack static displays.  Its time to let the military concentrate combat power on those fanatics who would take away all airshows, all freedoms, our way of life.  Once these perverts are wiped off the face of the earth we can get back to business as usual, not before.


Sorry folks, Open Houses and airshows are great, but right now your military has more important work, get over it!  "Let's roll."


 Hugh Oldham


WAN Editor's note: WORLD AIRSHOW NEWS randomly selected people in the industry to review this article prior to publication, to first determine how widespread the problem of congressional rallying for military support was, and to get feedback on the topic altogether.. Here are a couple of comments received thus far.  We welcome your response via email at weiman@mailbag.com

Sidebar #1:




As retired military wife, I can appreciate this. 


Our guys were always called away to "dog and pony" shows--they loved it and hated it at the same time.  The time away from family after a long deployment or field exercise was one reason--the other one was that they were just usually on static demo or brief fly-by and then stand all day and watch everything else fly in the shows. 


It was hard to clip those aviator's wings and make them sit in the nest while everything else was in the air.  Thank you for sharing this one--it touched home.  We civilian performers can now make the show until our military can join us again to turn jet fuel into noise above airshow skies.  We will be the Rosy the Riveter of the War on Terrorism. 


Pauline Buis of "Otto" the helicopter clown, Crestview, Fla.


Sidebar #2:




Thanks for the kind words.  It's nice to see that some people have the "big picture."  We love to support airshows, but we are hurting for both manpower and airframes.  Our pilots are being deployed for 45-90 days, flying 26-hour missions into some God forsaken airstrips.  The maintainers are working nonstop to ensure the aircraft are mission capable - a hefty job considering the length and type missions we are flying.  Hopefully, we'll be back to "normal" airshow support by next year.  I'd much rather be heading to the Langley Air Show than Afghanistan.


Take care,


Capt Mitch Richardson, USAF