Page 8 - World Airshow News Summer 2021
P. 8

GREG KOONTZ: FROM THE ACE




                            There’s a New Age Coming





                              W      hen I first started flying in   coupled with live broadcasting the airshow to the local commu-
                                                               nity. Backed by a loyal sponsor, they set out to preserve the West-
                                     airshows, we knew exactly
                                     what  to  expect.  We  had  a
                                                               moreland airshow tradition with this hybrid concept. Using tech-
                                     flag jump at noon, with the   nology not tried just a few years ago, they pulled off a success.
                              national anthem playing, and an air-  Their drive-in parking area had limitations, but broadcasting the
                              plane circling around with smoke.   show made it all work.
                              Someone would speak, and then a    Dave Cooper (affectionately known as Huggie) also produc-
                              loud airplane would dive into the box   es shows, and I know him best for the Greatest Show on Turf at
                              to get the excitement started. Some   Geneseo, New York. We all know how tough New York has been
                              clown would do a comedy act, and   on COVID-19 regulations, but Huggie had an ace in the hole –
                              someone would walk on the wing of   a great big field that could hold a massive number of cars. This
                              a Stearman. A formation team would   kind of event needs to commit to their plan many months in ad-
                              do, well, a formation. The skydiv-  vance, so the drive-in airshow seemed their only option. With a
                              ers would go back up, and this time   “No Guts, No Glory” attitude, they went for the drive-in concept
                              they’d all jump out at once. The hot-  to save canceling the show. As fate would have it, just before the
        shot headliner would fly last in the latest super-duper acro plane,   show, New York loosened up on their regulations. But the die was
        or maybe just before the jet team (depending, that is, if it is a   already cast, the waiver was filed, and it was too late to change a
        “small show” or a “big show”).                         thing. With people calling to fuss about the limitations of a drive-
           So, has anything really changed? I’ve been afraid that tech-  in concept, Huggie was forced to stand his ground. The show was
        nology would run away from us, and we’d never catch up. Were   on.
        we really entertaining anybody with the same old routine – the   The airshow weekend was plagued with off and on bad weath-
        cookie-cutter airshow model?                           er, but the die-hard performers flew their acts as safety permit-
           Change does not happen quickly in an industry so thick with   ted, and the show was nicely presented to the faithful audience.
        tradition, but when you look closely, while the model might not   This was possible because instead of everyone going home when
        be broken, it is definitely beginning to crack up. Innovations like   it started to drizzle rain, they just went to their cars! With a radio
        drones, super pyro & fireworks, and high-tech night shows have   station to hear the announcer, and a dry seat to watch the show,
        set a new, higher bar for airshow entertainment. You can now   it went on with great success.
        broadcast your show to defined audiences. You can advertise by   That experience led me to think, what if there had been a big
        social media to specific areas and use information technology to   thunderstorm? No big deal because everyone had a place they
        directly update your audience about weather or other changes.   could go. The show was a success because of the drive-in con-
           Yes, when I stared flying in airshows 47 years ago, I knew ex-  cept, not in spite of it! Huggie was swamped with post-show calls.
        actly what to expect when I arrived. We were sure that any devia-  Now, instead of people whining about having to stay with their
        tion from the pattern would mean disaster. It has taken a pain-  cars, they want to do it again next year. Suddenly it’s not a drive-
        fully slow process to wade into unknown waters, but it’s happen-  in airshow, it’s a TAILGATING AIRSHOW. They loved it!
        ing now, and if you’re not ready for the tide you might just sink.  Greg Gibson, Gabe Monzo, and Dave “Huggie” Cooper were
           Greg Gibson took SUN ‘n FUN into the challenges of CO-  served lemons and produced sweet lemonade – not because they
        VID-19 regulations using every high-tech opportunity that his   tried the old standard, but because they moved forward. We are
        budget could provide, and he managed to help SUN ‘n FUN   going to see a lot of that!
        attract one of their largest audiences ever. The entire SnF team
        seemed to know what had to be done. That is the whole point.  Greg Koontz is a full-time airshow performer and teaches basic
           Gabe Monzo runs the Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Westmoreland   aerobatics at his Flight School/Bed & Breakfast called Sky Country
        County Airshow. This event is a top-notch program using Gabe’s   Lodge. Greg is a former chairman of the ICAS ACE Committee,
        long-time experience in this business. Year 2021 presented a big   holds an unlimited aerobatic waiver, and has been designated a
        challenge to a big airshow that always provides top entertain-  Master Certified Flight Instructor-Aerobatics by the National Asso-
        ment, including a jet team every year. How do you provide the   ciation of Flight Instructors. Please send your comments/questions
        audience with the experience they have come to expect within   to Greg@GKairshows.com
        COVID-19 regulations? Gabe put his faith in a drive-in airshow











                                            www.airshowmag.com   8  Summer 2021
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