Sun, April 21, 2024

Airport celebrates Air Show and Masters’ numbers

Members of the Aviation Commission heard the preliminary report on the Augusta Air Show held May 13 and 14.

Final attendance numbers are still being tallied, but Bryan Lilley, CEO of AirDotShow which organized the event, called it a very successful inaugural event, with Saturday as the biggest day.

“Tens of thousands of attendees inside the airport and over a hundred thousand local residents in the surrounding area we flew over enjoyed the air show,” he said.

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Destination Augusta is also adding up the final numbers on the air show’s economic impact. It had projected more than 25,000 would attend and spend money at area businesses, resulting in an estimated economic impact of $172,000.

Commissioner Randy Sasser, who chaired the commission air show subcommittee, praised Lilley, his staff and volunteers.

“They did everything they said they would do. They met every obligation they set out with and even enhanced a little bit. So, worked out very well,” said Sasser.

One of the biggest successes was traffic management. Despite thousands of vehicles parked at and around the airport, Lilley said it took just 53 minutes to clear the parking areas and resume normal traffic on roads around the airport.

Sasser said he saw the same thing both Saturday and Sunday during the aerial acrobatics.

“Lots of smiling faces, lots of iPhones and cameras and that type of stuff. A lot of people said, ‘My goodness, why was it taking so long to do this?’ So, we really want to keep this momentum going,” he said.

And so, they shall. Plans have already begun for Augusta Air Show 2024. It will be held on Memorial Day weekend.

“The airport commission and staff set a new standard for the level an airport can support an air show. They are just phenomenal. We can’t wait to return in 2024,” Lilley told Augusta Business Daily.

Masters Recap

Looking at air traffic during Master Week, Ken Hinkle, Director of Aviation Services, said 2023 was slightly lower than 2022.

He said there were three reasons for the dip. First, Masters Week 2022 was a record-breaking event as people shook off the impact of the pandemic and it was the first tournament that returned to normal. The 2020 tournament was delayed until November and then was played with no patrons. The 2021 tournament was held in April, but with limited attendance

Hinkle said another factor was a few periods of bad weather.

“We wanted to highlight that every airport was having the same issue as far as the weather and the numbers were impacted by the weather,” he said.

The final component to impact this year’s numbers was the sheer size of the private airplanes. Hinkle said manufacturers continue to build larger planes and the airport has a finite amount of parking space.

Airport Executive Director, Herbert Judon, Jr. said they are looking at ways to expand the paved areas.

“So, every year you’ll see a little bit more pavement and hopefully, we’ll have new hangars,” he said. “We do expect to have more pavement almost every year. At least for the next two or three years.”

The airport had finished the north ramp and it was available for parking. Hinkle said they were able to park eight heavy, large cabin aircraft there.

Judon said airport staff deserved credit for two successful events.

“It was awesome,” he said. “We did the air show within a month after Masters, so we were still tired, but they executed excellently.”

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