122nd Revives Air Show, Set For Labor Day 2012
122nd revives air show, set for Labor Day
1st such event since 1997 likely to draw 20,000 daily spectators
FORT WAYNE – The 122nd Fighter Wing is taking the lead to bring the first air show to the city in nearly 13 years when it invades Fort Wayne International Airport on Labor Day weekend.
The aviation showcase of both civilian and military displays is expected to attract at least 20,000 spectators each day, said Maj. Brian Frazier, show director.
That would make it the second-most attended event in Allen County behind only the Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival.
Frazier said most long-term planning is complete for the 122nd Fighter Wing/Fort Wayne Air National Guard Air Show, which was first listed as an official event on the International Council of Air Shows website this fall.
According to that website, the U.S. Army’s Parachute Team, The Golden Knights, is scheduled to appear. But Frazier said no performers have been confirmed. A full lineup is expected to be released by mid- to late January.
Frazier said the air show was unable to secure the Navy’s Blue Angels and Air Force’s Thunderbirds because at the time he approached them, the widely popular teams already had scheduling conflicts.
The 122nd Fighter Wing started considering a revived Fort Wayne air show over the summer, when new wing commander Col. David Augustine suggested it, Frazier said.
Frazier said Augustine, who was unavailable for comment Wednesday and Thursday, proposed the air show as a means of promoting the local military presence and perhaps attracting new talent at the same time.
Depending on turnout, some air shows can net up to 50 new recruits through on-site sign-ups, Frazier estimated.
Frazier recalled the moment his interest in becoming an Air National Guardsman first piqued: It was while browsing fighter planes at an air show near South Bend in the late 1970s.
“I was able to see jets up close and thought it was really cool,” he said. “I wanted to do that.”
Augustine’s idea eventually led Frazier and three team members to the International Council of Air Shows Convention in Las Vegas this month. At the annual conference, they attended leadership seminars and began shopping for what Frazier calls “professional aerobatic performers.”
And they also learned what exactly they were getting into.
“For a fighter pilot like me, it was how to put on an air show,” Frazier said of his main takeaway from the convention. “It was a huge learning process for me. I took a lot of notes.”
He acknowledged one of the Labor Day weekend air show’s most apparent obstacles is that it coincides with the Auburn Fall Collector Car Weekend about 35 miles up Interstate 69.
This year’s Auctions America by RM event drew 43,000 enthusiasts over five days at the Auburn Auction Park.
But Frazier said he is not concerned about the scheduling conflict and looks forward to collaborating with auction organizers, whether through double-admission discounts or other deals benefiting both attractions.
In a prepared statement Thursday, Ed Cepuran, Auctions America by RM chief financial officer agreed the concurrent events could only benefit from each other.
“We, as a company, proudly support any event that provides business opportunities for the local communities of northeast Indiana,” he wrote.
“In addition, we will be honored to work closely with the National Guard aviators who play a significant role in providing freedom for all citizens of the free world with their dedication and commitment to our safety and way of life.”
Frazier added his organizers will lay groundwork for an auction-air show partnership as soon as possible.
“We’re going to get with them early,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s the same type of person who wants to go to a car auction that wants to see an air show.”
Frazier’s endeavor marks the first air show at Fort Wayne International Airport since the Blue Angels visited in October 1999.
Although that high-profile act will not be returning next year, Smith Field operations supervisor Joe Marana said Fort Wayne International Airport’s runway is one of the longest in the Midwest at nearly 12,000 feet and can accommodate basically any performance group.
He said the airport is “still in the developing stages” of coordinating the air show with the 122nd Fighter Wing, noting he is working on the appropriate paperwork for the Federal Aviation Administration.
After those documents are submitted, the FAA will have to approve the air show, which “shouldn’t be a problem” given how common similar events are at other regional hubs, Marana added.
He downplayed the notion that an influx of 20,000 show attendees in one weekend could clog airport facilities or hinder day-to-day operations.
“It’s going to affect us in that we may have to change some things organizationally,” Marana said.
“With our traffic and everything, a lot of airports our size have air shows every year. We’ll do everything we can to make sure it won’t bother us.”