Jane has really open my eyes to what we, as an industry, do at an airshow.
Jane has no aviation background. Her only contact with aircraft was through the airlines. In these ways, she represents the vast majority of our spectators. Her ďlimitedĒ perspective has brought me new, radical understanding of why we donít have more shows.
I grew up in aviation. My father earned his pilotís license at Hartsfield in Atlanta. He flew B-25ís in the South Pacific, operating for a time from Henderson Field, Guadical. I built and flew model airplanes, started jumping, earned my certificates. I still stop and watch any aircraft flying overhead. I eat, sleep, breathe, talk and dream aviation. I love airshows. My idea of heaven is laying on my back, in the green summer grass of Oshkosh, watching the afternoon airshow.
Jane describes most airshows in one word Ė boring. I could not believe it. Iíve married a girl who hates aviation; one who thinks airshows are boring. The possibility of an annulment came to mind, but I did a very un-male thing, I listened. I reflected on what she was saying. She did not dislike aviation or airshows in general, she is just not in love with and fascinated by airplanes.
Now, donít get her wrong. She loves Leoís act, she canít wait to see Sean D. Tucker again, was impressed by the Northern Lights and she enjoyed the Acro Flyers; but for every act she has found entertaining, she has given two thumbs down to many.
She finds no appeal in standing on a hot airport ramp watching plane after plane do the same thing. She does not enjoy a four hour airshow with 30 minutes of action and rest shear boredom. She finds no nostalgia in the lack of indoor plumbing. She canít see the appeal of old planes, flying in circles for 45 minutes, doing nothing, while the announcer drones on about events of over 50 years ago, after all she drives a Japanese car and has a son that works for a German company.
Jane has a valid point of view. Her option is shared by most of our spectators and our broad based general public market. These people are not aviation buffs; they came to the airshow to be entertained. Entertained, not educated; entertained, not lobbied by aviation interest; entertained, not subjected to a DoD recruiting commercial. They come to be entertained and we bore them to death. No wonder they donít come back.
After a year and a half on the circuit hereís Janeís Top Ten Gripe List:
Airshows are too long and too disorganized. The action is interspersed with long periods of nothingness or boring acts.
There is no continuity to the show, no theme, no sense, just a series of demonstrations. Its like a foreign language film with no sub-titles.
To many shows start with a bang, skydivers, flag, National Anthem, then fizzle to a progression of non-cohesive aerial demonstrations.
The port-a-johns are a necessary evil, but why are they hid, requiring a major hike. Why canít they be serviced and stocked more often. If I canít have indoor plumbing, at least give me clean outdoor facilities. Goes double for young children.
Why does a show sponsor group all the boring acts in the middle of the program. Group them at the end, after most people have left. Wow us at first opportunity then save the best for last, after weíve gone home, hot, tired, and bored?
Why do the least prepared and talented performers have the biggest egos? They fly the longest and do the least.
Why canít more acts use an air-start to enhance and speed up the presentation. Only so many people on the show line can see the performer get out of his plane, the rest of us are staring at hot ramp and empty sky.
Not another Cuban-eight! I realize that for some aircraft the inventory, of maneuvers is limited, but does every pilot have to do everyone.
For any act, shorter is better. Show us your good stuff then land. Are you guys getting paid by the hour?
Why canít the performer stay in the same county during turn-arounds?
Is you attendance or bookings down? Take a honest introspective look at your show or act; are you meeting the expectations of your audience? Are you presenting an act or program that would appeal to a general audience? Get input from someone outside the aviation organization, make a reality check. And you know what Ė youíll find Janeís right.