Page 8 - World Airshow News Q1
P. 8


                                 Here Comes 2020

                               B    y the time you are reading   ask most of these people if they regret retiring, and you get Matt’s
                                                               comment like some kind of echo.
                                    this, the next airshow season
                                    will be underway. It’s been 46
                                                                  Of course, there are people like Bud Granley, Danny Clisham,
                                    years since I started my air-
                                                               They’re just going to turn into dust at some airshow and blow
                              show career; 60 years since I told my   and Gene Soucy. I am beginning to feel they will never give it up.
                              dad I was going to do airshows when   away in the wind! May that be a very long time from now. What’s
                              I grow up. I never lost sight of that   left is Sean D. Tucker – the only person who could turn retiring
                              dream, but along the way I did learn   into a promotional campaign! You’ve got to love it.
                              that I could grow up and I could be   The last few years has seen the retirement of some of the best
                              an  airshow pilot, but  I couldn’t  do   in our business. It’s the inevitable attrition of an aging industry.
                              both! I’m just a 66-year-old kid with   We just get old, like it or not.
                              expensive toys.                    The list of retirees consists mostly of the old school performers
                                Looking at pictures of my first air-  – those who can look back a long way and remember how differ-
                              show in Courtland, Alabama I see a   ent it was to start an airshow career. Back then, a good airshow
                              skinny kid way in the background   aircraft wasn’t bought off the shelf and didn’t cost $400,000. Ask
        wearing a funny hat and standing next to a red, white, and blue   Mark Henley what was paid for his T-6 back in those days. Two of
        Piper Cub. The photographer was shooting a picture of Jim Hol-  them cost less than one J-3 Cub today. Airshow planes were mod-
        land and Mary Gaffney. Nobody was taking photos of the skinny   ified Stearmans and Chipmunks. They were Pitts Specials built in
        kid next to the Cub. I was just background stuff. Since that day   a basement. Big sponsors and nationally known performers were
        in 1974, I’ve flown in more than 450 airshows doing more than   not so common. For most it was just a hobby. The paycheck hard-
        2,000 performances in ten different countries. I’ve been featured   ly covered expenses. Doing a show beyond the next state over was
        in more than a dozen magazine articles. I’ve                         considered too far to be worthwhile.
        flown shows with all my heroes and have had   The last few years       Today it takes too deep a pocket for most
        the privilege to call them all my friends. It has                    people to enter the arena, and that’s assuming
        been better than I ever imagined it could be.  has seen the retire-  there is even interest in doing so. As these years
          When I was in China last year doing my Al-  ment of some of the    have passed by, I’ve watched the industry fill
        abama Boys act, the man who hired me asked                           with competition pilots expanding their skills
        me why I was still doing this airshow stuff. He   best in our business.  into airshows, most probably in a need to fund
        said most people my age would be retired and                         their aerobatic addiction. Less common are the
        spending time with the grandkids. It was a fair question. I retired   young people simply eager to follow in the footsteps of their he-
        from my corporate flying job only to expand my aerobatic busi-  roes. It is not the motivation that matters to me though, it’s the
        ness. The thought of ending airshow work has never really been   fading amount of people coming along to fill the shoes.
        a plan. It would be like quitting my family. I surely know that all   I figure I’m not long to consider retirement, but for now, I’m
        things come to an end, but I’ve figured things beyond my control   content to cut back a little to make more room for grandkids and
        would someday make that decision for me.               enjoy some travel, something my wife and I have been planning
          But the question did make me think. The more time I spend   to do. So, unless I turn to dust and blow away, I’ll be seeing you
        with grandkids the more I like it. In a conversation about retir-  on the circuit.
        ing, Matt Chapman said, “Greg, there is more to life than flying
        airshows.” You would think that was very obvious, but to a person   Greg Koontz is a full-time airshow performer and teaches basic
        like me, blinded by the airshow industry I love, it was an awak-  aerobatics at his Flight School/Bed & Breakfast called Sky Country
        ening. This is not something easy to consider. Looking at Debbie   Lodge. Greg is a former chairman of the ICAS ACE Committee,
        Gary, Wayne Handley, Rich and Dee Gibson, Steve and Suzanne   holds an unlimited aerobatic waiver, and has been designated a
        Oliver, John Mohr, Julie Clark, and Matt Chapman, I see people   Master Certified Flight Instructor-Aerobatics by the National Asso-
        who made the decision very reluctantly. Some still pay their dues   ciation of Flight Instructors. Please send your comments/questions
        to ICAS, maybe feeling that when their name no longer appears   to
        in the Industry Guide it will be like fading away into oblivion. But

                                       8  Winter 2020
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