The global airshow industry around the world like almost all of us is facing a very uncertain time during the Coronavirus crisis. The whole events industry was one of the first to be struck by social distancing restrictions and will probably one of the hardest hit. Airshow organisers, the various display teams and those who support the events in various guises face various challenges including business continuity but also keeping air displays in the public eye during a time very few can fly. Virtual airshows streamed over the internet certainly can help to keep airshow publicity going and the US based Show Center Podcast Team set themselves an ambitious task in creating a three-day virtual event, the ‘Socially D I S T A N T Airshow’

 Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports from the living room!

‘Show Center, the Airshow Podcast’ stars three American airshow commentators (or ‘announcers’ to use US parlance), Matt Jolley, Rob Reider and Ric Peterson. In their own fun way, they regularly look at airshow news in their podcasts as well as recounting their own airshow stories and interviewing prominent personalities from the US circuit. Their efforts during their first year of producing the podcast were rewarded at the 2019 ICAS (International Council of Airshows) Convention with the Platinum Pinnacle Award.

The Coronavirus crisis has halted airshows and other events around the world. For many that rely on income from airshows and other events 2020 could prove to be a very challenging year. The Podcast team therefore came up with the idea of a three-day virtual airshow, christened ‘The Socially D I S T A N T Airshow,” which would not only would help to keep airshow fans around the world entertained, but also would raise funds for the ICAS Foundation. The funds raised by the virtual event will be used by the foundation to help air show professionals who have been adversely impacted by the Coronavirus crisis.

The Socially D I S T A N T Airshow – Day 1

US based ‘Live Airshow TV’ provided the means to stream the airshow over both Youtube and Facebook allowing fans to watch and interact with the show with was presented by Matt, Rob, Ric together with Steph Stricklen. Bringing together the various presenters plus the editing and mixing crew who are based across the US and Canada was quite a feat of technology in itself but in general it worked very well despite some sound lag and slight connectivity dropouts during the broadcast. The replays which are still available on YouTube and embedded within this review are much smoother.  

The Socially D I S T A N T Airshow – Day 2

Even in the short time between the time that the airshow was announced and when it was broadcast, it drew together an impressive cast list. All of the United States Air Force’s main demo teams took part with appearances by the F-35A Lightning, A-10C Thunderbolt II, F-16C Viper and F-22A Raptor Demo Teams plus the Thunderbirds. The US Navy Rhino Demo Team flying the F/A-18F Super Hornet and Legacy Flight were also featured across the three days as were the Canadian Armed Forces with the Snowbirds and Skyhawks Parachute Team. A wide range of US based civilian acts also supported the show with various videos that sometimes didn’t feature their usual flying displays. There were some eye-catching sequences from some of the big name American aerobatic pilots which included a pair of aircraft cutting ribbons strung from the legs of some parachutists!

There was also some incredible support from international teams. The Royal Air Force was well represented by the Red Arrows and 2018-2019 Typhoon FGR4 Display pilot, Jim Peterson. All of Europe’s big national display teams took part with some beautiful video sequences from the Patrouille de France, Il Frecce Tricolori and Patrouille Suisse and further solo jet action came from the Belgian Air Force F-16AM Fighting Falcon solo display. But perhaps the most dramatic European display came from the Czech Republic with the joint display by Ivo Kardos in the JAS-39C Gripen and Martin Sonka in his Extra 300SR. Their joint display includes some incredibly tight formation flying by the dissimilar types highlighted by some great camera angles from on-board the Extra. The Brazilian Air Force’s Esquadrilha da Fumaça also took part with one of the most outstanding video sequences of the whole airshow with some superb air to air photography.

The Socially D I S T A N T Airshow – Day 3

But, special mention has to go to two acts that really embraced the spirit of the Socially DISTANT Airshow with some special insight into their displays. The Royal Canadian Air Force’s Snowbirds display team used teleconferencing software to great effect to present some of their most memorable manoeuvres with a running commentary on their history and how they are performed. The Redline Airshows team too provided some superb insight to their display with a stunning sequence filmed by a tail-mounted 360° camera which gave a very unique perspective on their display routine.

During an uncertain time, the Socially D I S T A N T Airshow was a welcome distraction over three nights and a worthy reminder of what we are all missing! Credit must go to the LiveAirshowTV and Show Center teams for their efforts and hopefully they will have paid off with a welcome boost for the ICAS Foundation.