Forward, but with Causalities             



While consuming “attitude adjustment fluid” after a resent airshow, several performers, and this writer, were mussing over the changes taking place in our industry – some good, some bad.  Change is enviable, progress is unstoppable and the airshow industry is climbing to the next level we all seemed to have wanted; but there is a hidden cost that all performers are having to pay.  


As our industry grows, we performers are losing our status and special place within the airshow production hierarchy.  As we duly expect better compensation for our skills and strive to become more professional, the down side is that we becoming more like employees or simply hired help of the airshow.


One of my fellow commiserates lamented that the he missed the special treatment, the parties, the “status” that was once directed to the airshow performer.  Frankly, I do too; but I also realize that as this industry “advances” our roles as airshow performers are changing from instant celebrity in a little nitch market to that of journeymen entertainers on the national stage.  We will be forced to work harder, have less “fun” but, in turn, be much better compensated.


One of the results of this evolution is that some of our long time airshow friends will not make the transition.  


We often compare airshows to NASCAR; and in this case, the parallel is valid.


Recently Procter & Gamble announced that they were withdrawing their Tide sponsorship from 24-year NASCAR veteran, Ricky Rudd.  The reasons are varied, but very simply put, Rudd is a single car racing operation in an industry that is fast become dominated by major, well funded, professionally run, multi-car teams.  Bottom line, Rudd is having a hard time staying competitive both on the racetrack and in the corporate boardroom.


“This is really the first time I’ve ever experienced anything like time,” Rudd was recently quoted.  “I guess racing is growing and it’s changing and, hopefully, it’s all for the better.  But I think, unfortunately, a lot of the guys who paid their dues and helped create this sport are tending to get run over.”


Ricky’s comments are as valid for the airshow industry as it is to NASCAR.  Our industry is rapidly changing.  Major corporate players are entering our little arena; bring big bucks and even bigger demands.  Being a “nice guy” or even a “great” pilot will no longer cut it in a business climate that will only judge “performance” on it’s affect on product sales and in a corporate Profit & Loss statement.


Welcome to the “Big Time!”  Its here, its now, it’s the unavoidable future.  Like it or not, get ready: Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way.   If you don’t, remember what Ricky told you, “you’ll get run over.”