Look! Up in the sky…

Vectren Dayton Air Show spotlights Dayton’s history of aviation

By Rusty Pate

Photo: One of the most popular air show attractions, The U.S. Navy Blue Angels will return to the 2014 Vectren Dayton Air Show on June 28-29; photo: Tim Gaffney

It might be easy to take for granted the importance Dayton holds in the world of air travel. After all, the images of the Wright “B” Flyer and Orville and Wilbur Wright have been so ingrained in the city’s identity, perhaps the significance is lost. Air travel and the concept of flight have become commonplace and ingrained into our society. It is hard to believe in some 110 years of manned flight, we have progressed to the point that flying across continents and oceans is now a daily activity.

We’ve also flown to the moon, with Wapakoneta’s own Neil Armstrong taking that storied giant leap for mankind.

The Vectren Dayton Air Show, presented by Kroger, is an opportunity for the community to be reminded of that history and to celebrate not only Orville and Wilbur’s dream, but the vast journey mankind has been on ever since.

Tim Gaffney has been going to the Dayton Air Show since 1985. He covered the event for the Dayton Daily News for 21 years until his retirement in 2006. He also has been on the board of trustees for the show since 2007 and serves as this year’s media relations director. He said the city’s relationship with flight goes far beyond Orville and Wilbur’s landmark achievements.

“Dayton is an aviation town; it’s an Air Force town,” Gaffney said. “The Dayton Air Show really reflects the character of this community, both the aviation heritage we have here, with the Wright ‘B’ Flyer making flybys at the air show every year, to the latest aerospace technology we have. Every airplane we see out there, either flying or on display, has its roots in aviation’s history here in Dayton and a lot of technology has its roots in the Air Force laboratory here, too.”

We sat down with Gaffney to discuss what attendees can expect this year, and just what makes the air show special.


What are some of the things attendees can expect to see this year?

This is a good year for us. Last year, the military sequestration started and the military eliminated all its air show participation. There were no jet teams flying. This year, some of that has been relieved a little bit. We’re happy to have the U.S. Navy Blue Angels as the headline act. We also have the U.S. Marine Corps Harrier Jump jet, which is always popular with air show crowds. We have the Air Force Academy Wings of Blue parachute team performing. Those are three military acts we’re lucky to have – especially the Harrier. It will be doing a flying demonstration and we’ll have a second Harrier that will be on static display. U.S. Coast Guard from Detroit will do a search and rescue demonstration with one of its helicopters and U.S. Customs and Border patrol will also have one of its Blackhawk helicopters here on display. – Tim Gaffney


How many people typically come to the air show?

Honestly, we’ve had a couple of soft years here. Last year of course, we didn’t have a jet team to offer. That’s always a big impact. Air show crowds love military jet teams. If you can’t offer one, it always hurts attendance. Last year, we suffered because of that. Then, I think it was the year before with crazy temperatures over 100 degrees. This year, we’re earlier in the year; we’re at the end of June instead of July, where we’ve traditionally had air shows. We’re hoping temperatures will be a little bit milder this year. We’re hoping for a good turnout. On a good air show weekend, we usually see between 60,000-70,000 spectators over the course of the weekend. –TG


What kind of economic impact does the air show have on the community?

We had a study done a few years back, and the economic impact was about $3.4 million. It’s a regional show. Most of our spectators come from within a day’s drive. We have some people staying overnight in hotels, but it’s not one of those kind of events where people come in from all over the country.


This event really seems to span generations. It’s something that kids remember going to with their grandparents or parents.

It really is. We have at least a dozen military personal who are coming to the air show are actually from the southern Ohio/northern Kentucky area. One of the things I would find is some of the pilots would tell us they got interested in aviation because their parents or grandparents took them to the Dayton Air Show when they were kids. I’ve heard that a number of times. –TG


What makes the Dayton Air Show special or unique compared to similar events?

I think one of the things that make it special is across the board we have the top performers in the air show industry. The Blue Angels are a premier military jet team, but even on the civilian side we have Sean D. Tucker this year. He’s the best there is in the air show business, a hall of fame enshrine. We have Patty Wagstaff, also a National Aviation Hall of Fame enshrine. We have the Shockwave Jet Truck. We have the North American AeroShell acrobatic team, which is probably the top civilian formation act in the air show industry. So, everybody we bring is the best there is. That’s true every year. –TG

I imagine safety concerns, both for the public and performers, are a big part of the planning process.

Safety is always at the top of our minds and it’s also at the top of the Federal Aviation Administration’s mind and it’s also at the top of the airport’s mind. There are rigorous reviews we go through every year. We’re always reviewing our safety procedures. We have to be accountable to the FAA. They review all of our emergency and safety procedures. We have to pass a lot of scrutiny. Everybody wants a safe air show. –TG


What is the larger community impact? What other attractions would you recommend attendees check out around the city and Miami Valley?

There’s the economic impact we can measure, in terms of people staying in hotels, people buying food while they’re here, things like that. But I also think the air show brings a lot of prestige to Dayton because it’s so widely publicized. When you go on the Internet now, you’ll find stories, videos and pictures of the Dayton Air Show all over the Internet. I think it helps keep Dayton in the minds of the air-minded public. People who have an interest in aviation, it reminds them this is where it all began. This is where we continue to value and celebrate aviation and our aerospace industry. It is one of a lot of attractions we have here, things like the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the Wright “B” Flyer, the original Wright Flyer 3 down at Dayton History and even Armstrong Air and Space Museum. We have a lot of places for people to go and see. What we try to do is encourage people if they’re coming to the air show, spend an extra day or two and see some of the other sites we have here. Once you come for the air show, there’s so much more you can see or do. –TG


It’s something the community can really be proud of.

I think it is. I’m a native of Dayton and I’m really proud of our air show. It’s a family-type of event and it’s the biggest outdoor event we have here. I think it’s something that Dayton can be quite proud of. –TG

The Vectren Dayton Air Show presented by Kroger will take place at the James M. Cox International Airport from June 28-29. Single adult tickets are $20, youths 6-11 and seniors are $15. Children 5 and under are free. Family 4-packs are available for $74.95 and include four general admission tickets, four hot dogs, four Cokes, 1 general admission parking pass and a souvenir program. The cut off for the 4-pack is noon on Friday, June 27. For more information, please visit daytonairshow.com. 


Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at RustyPate@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at RustyPate@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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