Skyfest organizers work hard to make show run safely and smoothly
by Eric Johnson
Though visitors to this year’s 20th Anniversary Boshears Skyfest won’t be able to miss the crackerjack flying or the dazzling array of aircraft, they’ll likely overlook much of the infrastructure that keeps people safe and the show running smoothly. And that’s okay by the organizers, who work for a full year so they can be overlooked this way.
The week of the air show, however, everyone springs into action.
“You have to take an airport that’s set up for flying operations and, in a matter of a couple of days, turn it into a parking lot and a pedestrian walkway and an area that’s safe for crowds to come around airplanes,” says Tony Gay, the show’s logistics specialist. “So basically, we put up about a mile or so of fence and we sink about 1,000 posts. We fence the parking lot, we make driveways and pedestrian walkways for ticket gates all in a matter of a couple of days.”
Not only that, but they have to work to provide power to areas of the airport that were never intended to have power.
“The field’s not set up for electricity, so we have to run power everywhere we want power with generators,” Gay says. “That’s all wired up on Wednesday and Thursday.”
The static performers start coming in on Thursday and Friday.
“The airport never closes except for two hours during both days for the show itself,” Gay says.
Preparation for the actual air show portion of the event requires patience, perseverance and a lot of paperwork.
“First of all, you have to book your aviators,” says show Chairman Brad Kyzer. “Then you have to get all of their credentials.”
To fly in an air show, a pilot has to have certain certifications, Kyzer says. First, they’re allowed to do their performances at high altitudes, and the more they progress, the closer to the ground they’re allowed to go. The popular ones are certified to fly basically right down to the runway.
“You have to get all that stuff, and then you have to submit a waiver,” he says. “That’s a big deal. I usually get it in two months ahead of time. There, you list all your performers, their license numbers, the type of airplanes they’re flying and that sort of thing.”
The waiver is what allows them to close the airport for a certain, limited amount of time, as opposed to the requirements for a fly in, where everyone just comes and goes as they please.
Of course, show time has its own set of requirements.
“The FAA shows up Saturday morning,” Kyzer says. “They inspect the airplanes, they talk to the pilots and we have a briefing before each show where our air boss and I outline the show and what we expect and the rules of our particular field.”
Because Daniel Field is an in-town airport, there are some additional restrictions. According to Gay, the neighboring municipal golf course is closed, and the airspace above the field, known as the box, is closed for all traffic except the assigned performers.
And in spite of the way the performers push the envelope, the show itself is very controlled.
“Safety is the first consideration,” Kyzer says. “We want people to be excited, but we want the show to be safe as well. The performers that we have are all true professionals.”
However, because any type of flying is, in some degree, dangerous, there are multiple safety precautions, from fire trucks on the field to security to medical professionals stationed in ambulances as well as manning a medical tent.
It’s an expensive proposition, and though a small portion of the show’s funding comes from the Augusta Regional Airport and Daniel Field, the vast majority comes from solicited sponsorships.
“Our goal is to have at least 80 percent of the money through sponsorships and public funding so that we don’t have to depend on the gate.”
According to Kyzer, relying on paying customers means relying on a variable. Weather, the economy and other unforeseen circumstances can all conspire to limit a show’s revenue, which could jeopardize its ongoing appearance.
Not only that, but when the show’s organizers decided to give free admission to children 12 and under, a goodwill gesture meant to increase the number of kids exposed to aviation, they lost a good deal of the gate.
Judging from the number of kids — and their smiles — it was a popular decision.
Boshears Skyfest 2012
Daniel Field | Saturday-Sunday, October 20-21
9 a.m., gates; 1:30 p.m., opening ceremonies and air show
$15 in advance, $18 at the gate
boshearsskyfest.orgYou Might Also Like: