Airshows - Good, or Great?

When I was a kid, my father used to take us to the airshow which came to town each summer. We’d climb in the planes, eat hot dogs and admire the stunt flying. I’m not into military trivia, but I remember enjoying it each year.

Covid was hard on the airshow. They held the first one in three years and something like thirty thousand people attended. I think they kept Covid precautions, and might have even made people watch from a socially distanced parking spot? But not really sure; didn’t go. It seems like they took Covid seriously, and it seems a positive event.

A lot of “letter to the editor” type people disagreed. They claimed these events are loud, disturbing and greatly polluting. I never found them this, but I also live some distance from the airport. It seems a lot of people came to see it and that must be good for the city and its businesses.

Is there much truth to these claims? I think it lasted a couple days at most.

I live 4 km north of the CNE grounds in Toronto and my old office was about 300 m north.

I hate the Toronto Air Show.

I have never been to one, and I like planes a lot. Is it worth it?
I think I’ll watch from my sofa.

A big issue is that people don’t have to actually pay admission to see the air part of an air show. Neighboring streets, parking lots, and highways become a weekend-long tailgate party that is bound to annoy the locals.

I used to get excited about the air show every Labor Day weekend, here (only officially “went” to the event itself like twice, but you can see most of it from most of the city). By now, though, it’s gotten routine enough that it’s just sort of there, and I don’t pay much attention.

I used to live next to Martin State Airport in MD, just across the water, in the neighborhood where the stealth fighter crashed in 1997. The National Guard uses this airport, so A-10s and C-130s are constantly flying in and out of the airport. Depending on the winds, they would often fly directly over where we lived.

Air shows back then would last the entire weekend, so 2 days.

Loud and disturbing:

No louder than normal operations at the airport. A-10s and C-130s aren’t quiet. You don’t realize how large and loud an A-10 is until you see a tiny little Cessna take off on the same runway a couple of minutes later. There were two airshow events that I do remember being much louder than normal.

  1. A pair of F-15s flew over the runway, pointed their noses up, and hit the afterburners. They went up so quickly that they ended up in commercial airspace and got in big trouble for it.

  2. The aforementioned stealth fighter crash. That was loud. Took out an entire house, literally nothing left. Surprisingly, not much louder than the F-15s hitting their afterburners.

So, overall, not loud or disturbing. Although it is very weird to see a Soviet Mig flying over your neighborhood.


No more than normal operations on the airport. Looking on Google Maps, it looks like I lived about 3,000 feet from the end of the runway. I don’t remember any haze in the air or a smell of jet fuel or anything like that. There was probably more pollution on Eastern Avenue from all of the cars than there was pollution from the airport.

I personally don’t think there is much truth to the claims.

There is one thing that isn’t mentioned in the OP, and that is crowds and traffic. Driving anywhere near the airport while there’s a show becomes a bit of a pain in the backside.

People do that anyway. Any time there was an airshow, you’d have a crowd of boats in the waterways all around the airport (Middle River and all of the little creeks and inlets that feed into it). When the stealth fighter crashed, the pilot said that after the wing came off he tried to aim for the shore, so that he wouldn’t hit the neighborhood and wouldn’t come down on all of the boats. The plane didn’t handle very well with one wing, so he missed the shore and hit a house that was right on the shore.

There aren’t any decent fields near the airport, and the shoreline is mostly privately owned, so your best bet to view the airshows was to go out on the water.

I love airshows - of course, I’m a pilot and have flown some aerobatics myself. One of my acro instructors is now a full-time airshow pilot (and there are very few).

The letter-to-the-editor crowd are likely people who live right near airports. And I can see how they’d be inconvenienced, although such folks often complain about airports anyway.

For me, I am mostly concerned with safety. Not spectators, as that’s very well taken care of in the U.S. (less so elsewhere). As much as I enjoy airshows, I dread the possibility of witnessing a crash. I’ve actually had recurring nightmares about this, and a number of performers I’ve seen fly eventually died in accidents. The danger comes from how low the performers fly.

As my acro instructor told me, they start on the airshow circuit on a waiver that allows them to perform at 500’ above ground level. The next year they can go to 250, and after that all the way to ground level. I’d much rather see them all perform at 250 or 500’. I’ve never done an aerobatic maneuver anywhere near that low, but my instructor says the sight picture is very different at ground level. Very dangerous, very unforgiving.

Just like at the circus, I have no interest in seeing someone truly endangered. I want the wire walker to use a net, and I want aerobatic performers to have some margin for error. We spectators could see perfectly well if they flew a few hundred feet up.

IMO, the one in Chicago along the lakefront is pretty incredible.

I was driving my daughter to camp when she was 8 and her brother was 6. He was sound asleep. We drove through Latrobe, PA where the Arnold Palmer Airport had an air show going on. Occasionally we saw planes doing crazy things.

My daughter had forgotten a few things, so we stopped at KMart. I woke my son up and the three of us started walking through the parking lot.

A plane flew over, very low, and did a roll. My son freaked. He couldn’t believe a plane was flying all crazy like that, plus he couldn’t believe we weren’t freaking out.

When I lived in Silicon Valley (Sunnyvale), they’d do air shows at Moffett NAS. My spouse at the time worked at a place right across the freeway from Moffett, spitting distance, and we’d watch from there several years in a row. Each time, the day before, the Blue Angels would practice over the field, and the whole company would troop up on the roof to watch. Once one of the FA18’s went by over the building inverted, close enough I could just about read the pilot’s name on his helmet. The sound of this was amazing, just about knocked you over. My wife would get quite amorous after. :slight_smile:

I miss airshows.

I think they’re okay. I don’t agree with the protesters around here who claim it glorifies war.

When I was in the Air Force in the '80s, I use to have work them (i.e., parking detail)

The National Guard is stationed right here, and I can see a lot of it. I get free tickets from some friends in the Guard, but I give those those away to family or friends.

I haven’t thought of airshows in forever. My dad would take us. I never had particular interest in aircraft, but the stunt shows were impressive. My big memory is that Army Airborne would be there giving kids zipline rides.

We used to go to the Reno Air Races. We had grandstand tickets for the show when Galloping Ghost crashed right into that area. Many people killed and injured. However, we couldn’t get our regular flight the day before, somwe missed that day and were in Seattle between flights to take us to Reno when we heard about the crash. Had we been on our usual Thursday flight, we would have been at ground zero. Probably not killed, as most of the deaths happened in the box seats on the ground. But it would have been a horrific scene and some were injured in the grandstands from debris. I wrote about it here when it happened.

Despite that, I love air shows. I’ve been to many. My best memory other than Reno was flying a Maule M5 with a friend through the mountains to see the Abbotsford Airshow (fantastic airshow). We threw an old parachute over the wing as a tent and slept on the field. We called it our ‘Wingabego’.

I’ve also participated in airshows (not as a performer) and our club used to man a booth in the ground display area of the Namao airshow every year. There used to be lots of little airshows/fun fly events around the country, and we’d fly our little Grumman to them, have a pancake breakfast, watch warbirds fly and a couple of aerobatic routines, then fly home. Great times.

I love them. I went to the Macguire AFB show multiple times. For a different type of show I like going to the WWII weekend in Reading PA. No modern aircraft just old warbirds flying.

I worked on the Jacksonville Naval Air Station for 18 years. For a number of those years, my desk was facing out a window looking toward the runway, so I’d see the practice flights for the air show every year. And NAS Jax is on the St. Johns river - one year we took our boat and anchored near the end of one runway for an up close and personal, uncrowded view. It was great.

On the other hand, after seeing quite a few over many years, I’m pretty meh about them now, but way back when, I really enjoyed them.

The toll of crashes, serious injuries and deaths in air shows is impressive.

It sounds like this was a once a year summer event. If so, I can only say this to those people. “REALLY?!! You’re going to throw an adolescent tantrum over that?!”

I hope they didn’t discontinue the even because of those people.

That Wiki link ain’t be updated (yet). One of the Jets turfed in Reno yesterday. I took a wobbly cellphone video of the field just before it happened. I didn’t actually see it (don’t think I could from where I was), but the smoke cloud was pretty impressive. However, it put the fucks to the remaining events, and I was out of there early. No Unlimited Gold race.

I love the Air Races, but there is an awful lot of dead time. I got a secret spot where I drive in, park and set up camp. All the food, beer, music I need. Been hitting the same spot for about 20 years. Took the dogs and we had a good time, but the roar of the mighty F-18 scared Hickory and she hid under the car. Ted found a golf ball and we played fetch. Doxie barked every time a plane went by and Dixie slept in the box, out of the light rain.

I live near LAX (and it was here long before I bought my condo) so I don’t complain. I went to one air show when I was a kid. I was bored.

I like them but I’m a military hardware fan. About 2 years ago, we had a family trip to Chincoteague, VA and took a daytrip to Ocean City, MD. Their airshow was the following day but the Blue Angels were practicing while we were there. Unlike the only other place I’ve seen the BAs, Chicago, Ocean City doesn’t have many skyscrapers and they were flying really low. It was amazing to see them up close, heart pounding.

Brief video of the crash, link broken as a man has died, add the y to youtube: