Page 10 - World Airshow Sept-Oct 2018
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JEFF PARNAU: EDITOR AT LARGE


                                  ‘Airshow’ Hookups?



                            N      o, I’m not reporting on yet an-  be Gus’s Drive In, where you could drool over restored cars and
                                                               trucks. (This was appropriately labeled the cruising part of the
                                   other chapter of  As the Prop
                                                               day.) Shuttle stops at all points were hourly, ending shortly before
                                   Turns. I’m writing about what I
                                   recently witnessed at my home
                           airport, East Troy Municipal, located   5:00 pm. And if you left your car at the airport, your final stop
                                                               would be the airport.
                           about 25 miles west of Milwaukee.     What I found interesting about this is that it involved the co-
                             Fact: Airshows are the tasty prey of    operation of the local Chamber of Commerce, which worked
                           hungry weather. Due to a weather fore-  with the Village (which owns the airport and controls the fire
                           cast, the last airshow held in Baraboo,   department), the non-profit East Troy Electric Railroad (locally
                           Wisconsin  drew only  a handful  of at-  famous for restoring antique streetcars, including dinner rides), a
                           tendees. The event culminated in a wet   privately owned restaurant (already well known for weekly sum-
                           scramble to outrun the lightning.   mer gatherings of classic cars), and FETA.
          During a large airshow, a weather cancellation can overwhelm   And what about the weather? What if it had bitten?
        both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Although AirVenture is   The firehouse had plenty of indoor room, with most of the
        spread over a week, anyone interested in the 2018 Wednesday   equipment out on display. The airport had the hangar, and al-
        evening show was punished for their enthusiasm, forced to join a   though it would have been tight, the pancakes would flip. Gus’s
        soggy march to safety and comfort. And in Milwaukee this year,   has some room in the restaurant, and old-style drive-in canopies.
        the Thunderbirds were limited to a low show on Saturday, and   The train rides would continue as normal.
        a no-show on Sunday. How many people were disappointed by   All together, FETA planned a small-airport-no-hassle-no-
        that? Eyeball-estimates for large airshows are notoriously (and   waiver-no-FAA breakfast fly-in with enough airborne activity to
        possibly deliberately) vague. Maybe 100,000 Beer City fans were   keep the kids happy. The other three sites made it a day full of va-
        sad. Maybe twice that.                                 riety, rather than four hours of sunburn.
                                                                 A small event like this (there are roughly 4,000 residents of
        WANT TO RUN AN AIRPORT?                                East Troy) is far simpler to plan than a “real” airshow, which in-
          Fact: Since I escaped running an FBO, flight school, and main-  volves airspace waivers, FAA spies, paid performers (or at least,
        tenance shop, I have spent little time sharing the joys of avia-  expenses and fuel), and decent weather.
        tion-related indentured service. I began skipping the occasional   Opinion: The small show doesn’t even have to be an airshow.
        meetings of the Friends of East Troy Airport (FETA), and other   It can just be an airplane show. Making it a part of a diverse com-
        annoyances, such as being interrupted by some rich kid’s grand-  munity event can attract more than just those who are curious
        pa who wants him to learn to fly, right now.           about airplanes or fattening food. And the risk of being rained
          Walter Watkins, the person who has been managing the air-  into financial ruin is lessened by hooking up with partners.
        port since my departure, has the enthusiasm of a guy who prob-
        ably thought he’d like to manage an airport. (My name is Walter
        and I run an FBO.) He began pressuring the shrinking FETA
        membership to make up their minds. The group had skipped the
        previous year’s breakfast/fly-in/drive-in event because it’s hard
        work, doesn’t pay, and generates few thank-you’s. But Walter
        stuck with his plot, and the event was resurrected. I expected it
        would be, at best, as good as it has ever been.
          On the day of the fly-drive-walk-in breakfast, nasty weather
        was a possibility, but didn’t show up. Some 700 breakfasts were
        served, and I’d guess there were another couple hundred folks
        who stopped at McDonalds to avoid a possibly long line. Maybe
        50 airplanes flew in, and dozens of others were positioned in
        roped off areas, close enough to gawk at, but not touch.
          But this was no longer simply an airport event. There were
        other events scheduled to run simultaneously at other sites. The
        airport breakfast and open house was one of a quartet of family-
        oriented destinations that together made up an entire day, all tied
        together with shuttle busses.
          If you parked on the airport for breakfast, the first shuttle (at
        9:30) would take you to the East Troy Electric Railroad, where
        you could take a trolley to a fancy farmer’s market five miles away,
        and buy a famous Apple Pie Baked in a Paper Bag™. (Seriously.)
        From there, you could grab a shuttle to East Troy Emergency
        Services (the fire department), look at fire trucks, and talk to
        firefighters and EMTs. By mid-afternoon, the next stop would

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