Originally created 12/15/00

Airport's board cancels Skyfest



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

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

Tim Weegar, interim director of Augusta Regional Airport, made the recommendation to the Augusta Aviation Commission that the air show not be held this year.

He cited 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 when recommending 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 that, when he started listing 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 show significantly over its $100,000 budget.

Mr. Weegar said those costs didn't include the price for repairing secondary roads to and from the airport and other 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 requests 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 show will have on the Boshears Fly-In. Buster Boshears said he didn't think anyone, including the show'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 combining the events would help promote Augusta's aviation history.

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

Skyfest 2000 proved to be problematic from the first day. 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 air show 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 was one of the factors that 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 purportedly have told the mayor and Mr. Weegar that they want to come back in 2002.

Reach Justin Martin at (706) 823-3552.