Mon, July 15, 2024

Reviewing challenges for Augusta’s next air show

On the heels of Augusta Regional Airport’s 2024 Air Show, members of the Aviation Commission are looking at how to prepare for next year.

Tim Weegar, airport Deputy Director and Director of Operations, began with a brief update on last month’s air show for members of the Air Services/Air Show Committee.

“From the operations side, it was good,” he began. “We didn’t get fussed at by Homeland Security. We were able to make some better connections with their internal security and our security. So, as far as the operational side, the regs, and our change of condition, no issues there. That all went well, and so that makes building the next one easier. You kind of know how they do theirs a little bit better and how we can integrate our stuff.”

Looking ahead to 2025, Weegar said he could see some challenges, beginning with the timing.

In 2023 and 2024, the air shows were held more than a month after increased airport traffic for Masters Week. In 2025, Masters Week begins on April 6 with the final round on April 13. Weegar said Airport operations will remain high through at least the Monday after Masters.

“On the 14th, that’s our busiest day on the east side. Cleanup has got to get started on the east side,” he explained. “What does that mean? Ken’s (Hinkle, Director of Aviation Services) got about 28 portable light generators that got out of the way. Six or 10 big generators have got to get out of the way. Got to relocate aircraft that are still parked there. Fuel trucks have to get back on this side. Ground support equipment has to get back on this side.”

Air Show 2025 will be held the last weekend in April, less than two weeks later.

Another factor will be next year’s headliners, The Blue Angels, the popular team that draws the biggest crowds. It is anticipated crowd size could swell to 25,000 each day, roughly double the single-day crowds in the past two years.

Weegar said the Blue Angels team is expected to arrive on April 21 to work out final logistics for their program.

Dan Troutman, Chairman of the Aviation Commission, said the close timing was taken into consideration when planning for 2025 began.

“A lot of these conversations you’re bringing up were had when they proposed that day and we discussed it, and kind of the consensus was it’s better to move a little closer to Masters, because this way, we get two big things out of the way. Otherwise, you ramp up, you go down. You ramp up, you go down. I think there’s a lot of things that need to be discussed. I agree with that, but I think we’ve got to put a positive twist on it and keep this thing growing,” he said.

Herbert Judon, Jr., Executive Director of Augusta Regional, agreed with Troutman’s analysis, telling ABD that step one is to have the team from B. Lilley Productions, the company that coordinates the air shows, come to Augusta to work out next year’s plan as soon as possible.

“It’s very important, there’s just a lot of moving parts,” he said. “Next year with the Blue Angels, we know that they’re going to attract even more people. Ten months sounds like a lot, but it goes by fast. So, like staff said, I think the key is just to get started right now, and don’t leave anything to doubt.”

Even with potential challenges, Judon is confident Augusta Airport can host another successful air show in 2025.

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