Greetings from The Aero Experience Team


The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Aero Experience Editorial: Local Aviation Community Must Step Up to Fill In Gaps Left by Loss of Military Performers

By Carmelo Turdo
The Aero Experience Editorial

(Fred Harl photo)
The mission of The Aero Experience is to promote Midwest Aviation, and by extension in many cases, the entire aviation industry as well.  The events of this recent Memorial Day caused me to reflect even more on the importance of remembering members of the military services who have given the ultimate sacrifice and their families who continue to hold to their dear memories.  Military aviation units have been a part of this tradition at least since World War I, employing the Missing Man Formation in remembrance ceremonies and funerals across the world.   As military aviation began to catch the imagination of the American people during the strategic bombing campaigns of World War II and dogfights in the skies over Korea, the public appearance of military aircraft (current and what we now call warbirds) at airshows and county fairs became a regular part of summer family fare.  Military branches formed their own aerobatic teams, employing current military aircraft and service members to take the entertainment and recruiting mission to the growing number of interested taxpayers.  In the present atmosphere of sequestration where federal budgets are cut across the board, "secondary" missions of military aviation, such as aerial salutes to fallen veterans and the cultivation of the next generation of aviators through public displays, are no longer flown.  This leaves a gap in our aero experiences that must be filled by local aviation communities.

(Carmelo Turdo photo)
The local civilian aviation community is still the basis for the existence and growth of the regional and national aviation industries.  Flashy jet fighters and corporate Gulfstreams  have their great contributions to our society and culture, but it is the local airport with its FBOs, flight schools, support services, and business/pleasure fliers that keep the system "in the air."  Hundreds of airports and private airstrips in each state provide the infrastructure for both civil and military operations that keep commerce flowing across our great country.  The current federal budget situation provides an opportunity for local aviation communities to step in and show how well they can provide business, military support, training and charitable services as valuable and necessary parts of economic and cultural growth. 

(Carmelo Turdo photo)
The recent Memorial Day aerial salute experience over Hecker, IL, similar to the one provided by some of the same participants over Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in November, was but one example of where the local St. Louis/Metro East Illinois aviation community showed a willingness to honor fallen military veterans when the military itself was unwilling or unable to do so.  Even the USAF Academy graduates went without the traditional Thunderbirds salute - warbirds from the Texas Flying Legends Museum and the local Colorado Springs National Museum of World War II Aviation took on the mission at great expense to save the day.  The other, very obvious absence of military aviation is at airshows across the country.  Airshows are not just festivals for plane geeks, but in many locations they have become annual rituals that bring together local communities and generate significant economic impact from the use of support services and tourism.  One flaw in the airshow as entertainment model, though, is the reliance of military aerial acts as headliners to attract an audience at the expense of local and regional participants.  The cancellation of airshows this year due to the absence of military headliners like the USAF Thunderbirds, USN Blue Angels or US Army Golden Knights exposes that weakness with a bright red neon sign.  It is not too late to rescue the remaining aerial events early in the season by inviting the local aviation community to show their presence and seeking out first and second-tier airshow performers who now have rather large gaps in their schedules.  It is also time that local sponsors step up and provide financial support (yep, I said it) and create a marketing connection between aviation and the audience for each event.  Preserving  current scheduled aviation events, and adding many locally-hosted events and fly-ins, will go a long way toward strengthening the economic and cultural impact of the local aviation community.  Local Midwest Aviation examples include the Salute to Veterans Corporation airshow, which continued with local support despite the cancellation of the US Navy Super Hornet headliner, and the addition of the fly-in at St. Louis Downtown Airport sponsored by the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum and EAA Chapter 64. 
It is time now for local pilots, airports, EAA Chapters, aviation museums, FBOs and other aviation groups to team up with local sponsors to preserve and grow their opportunities for public interaction.  Let's make this a great comeback year for the aviation industry, from the ground up!             

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