Originally created 12/15/00

Skyfest 2001 canceled



Last week, Augusta airport officials learned that neither the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels nor the Air Force Thunderbirds would be coming to Boshears Skyfest 2001.

Thursday, Augustans learned there would be no Boshears Skyfest 2001, period.

It was Tim Weegar, interim director of Augusta Regional Airport, who made the recommendation to the Augusta Aviation Commission that the air show be postponed.

Citing much needed infrastructure repairs on the service roads around Bush Field and the costs involved in bringing the Canadian "Northern Lights" flight demonstration team to Augusta, Mr. Weegar recommended that Boshears Skyfest 2001 be canceled.

The Commission unanimously agreed.

"We did not make the show for either the Thunderbirds or the Blue Angels," Mr. Weegar told the commission. "As we scoped around for other draws, the best we could come up with for a draw was the Northern Lights, four pilots who are former Snowbirds with the Canadian military.

"But they are civilian now. They fly an L-39 jet," Mr. Weegar said."Their cost is $25,000 for the weekend. That's a 20-minute show Saturday and a 20-minute show Sunday."

Mr. Weegar, who went with Mayoral Assistant Mark Gibbons to the International Council of Airshows in Las Vegas last week, said when he started adding up the other attractions he would have to book to make Boshears Skyfest 2001 a success, he found the numbers didn't add up.

He said when he started thinking about the ancillary costs of running an air show - the advertisements, the hotels, the fuel - it was going to put the budget significantly over the $100,000 set aside for the show.

Mr. Weegar said those costs didn't include the price for repairing secondary roads to and from the airport and other airport infrastructure needs.

Augusta Aviation Commissioner Joe Scott asked if there was any way to get a commitment from the Navy's Blue Angels for 2002. Mr. Weegar told him there was not.

"They get 400 request every year, vying for the show," Mr. Weegar said. "It's very unlikely they come (to the same place) back to back. They have to go somewhere else for recruiting efforts."

It is unclear what impact the cancellation of the airshow will have on the Boshears Fly-In. Buster Boshears said he didn't think anyone, including that airshow's organizers, knows what will happen next.

The Boshears Skyfest 2001 was announced by Augusta Mayor Bob Young two months ago at the Boshears Fly-In. Mr. Young and airport officials said the combining of the events would help promote Augusta's aviation history.

The initial plan was to hold airshows featuring jets at Augusta Regional Airport and smaller airshows at Daniel Field in alternating years.

Skyfest 2000 proved to be problematic from the first day of planning. Poor strategic planning resulted in major traffic jams the day of the event.

Complicating matters was a Federal Aviation Administration law that did not allow crowds to watch an airshow from any place other than designated audience areas.

Thus, hundreds of people caught in the gridlock around the airport - some of whom had waited in line on Lock and Dam Road for as long as three hours - were told to turn around and go home.

The disaster cost former Airport Director Al McDill his job.

Still, Skyfest 2000 was deemed a success and the pilots and organizers alike said they enjoyed the show. The Blue Angels pilots have purportedly told the mayor and Mr. Weegar that they really want to come back in 2002.

Reach Justin Martin at (706) 823-3552.