Virtual airshow to feature big names, big fun

It’s an airshow where weather is not a problem, kids are free to roam and sunscreen is not required. Plus, you don’t have to line up to use the Porta-Potty.

Mike Reyno Photo
The CF Snowbirds were the first aerobatic team to join The Socially Distant Airshow’s lineup. Mike Reyno Photo
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Welcome to the world of pandemic-proof event planning and The Socially Distant Airshow.

As COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of countless events, the idea of a virtual airshow has been discussed by many. But three airshow announcers who are the voices behind “Show Center – The Airshow Podcast,” have decided to take it one step further.

“When we were doing our Show Centre podcast, it was Matt Jolley who suggested we should do it as a fundraiser,” explained Ric Peterson, who co-hosts the podcast with Jolley and Rob Reider.

“We know people in the airshow industry will be hurt by this. We all know there are ups and downs in this kind of employment, but our industry has ground to a halt. We know there are going to be others in our profession who won’t do well, like in the entertainment and event industries. I’m worried about the season at this point.”

So Jolley, Peterson and Reider – all members of the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) — approached the association to see if a fund could be set up through its charitable arm, the ICAS Foundation, to benefit airshow community members in financial need.

“With so many airshows cancelled and our industry hard-hit, we have the technology and the content to put something out there that keeps us on mission,” said Peterson.

“ICAS loved the idea. We approached them because we needed to reach the performers within the membership and the easiest way was through the organization. The ICAS Foundation was more than happy to help.”

Eric Dumigan Photo
Along with the Snowbirds, the show’s star-studded lineup is set to include Matt Younkin and his Twin Beech 18, pictured, along with Mike Wiskus, Patty Wagstaff, Adam Baker, the AeroShell Aerobatic Team, the Belgian Air Force “Dark Falcon” F-16 solo display, Mike Goulian, Jodi Rueger, Ken and Kyle Fowler, the U.S. Navy Rhino Demonstration Team, Rob Holland and the Shockwave Jet Truck. Eric Dumigan Photo

Their collaboration led to the creation of The Socially Distant Airshow – a name that explains itself perfectly well during these unprecedented times. Scheduled for April 21, 22 and 23 at 3 p.m. EDT, each day’s two-hour show will be broadcast live by LiveAirshowTV via its Facebook, YouTube and Instagram channels.

The Show Center trio announced plans for the virtual airshow on March 31, and the response from performers has been tremendous. Within the first few days, more than a dozen participants were confirmed.

“They’re all on the ground right now,” said Peterson. “Some of the teams are continuing to practise, but they all want to help out. They have the time to be creative and throw together unique video content for us.”

The first act to sign on to The Socially Distant Airshow was Mike Wiskus, who flies the orange Lucas Oil Pitts biplane. The first team to come on board was the Canadian Forces Snowbirds. The rest of the star-studded civilian and military lineup includes such beloved airshow acts as Patty Wagstaff, Adam Baker, the AeroShell Aerobatic Team, the Belgian Air Force “Dark Falcon” F-16 solo display, Mike Goulian, Jodi Rueger, Ken and Kyle Fowler, Matt Younkin, the U.S. Navy Rhino Demonstration Team, Rob Holland and the Shockwave Jet Truck sporting brand new livery for 2020.

Peterson said other jet teams have been approached and the request is “working its way up the chains of approval.”

Jolley, Peterson and Reider will act as emcees of the event, providing colourful commentary in between acts.

“The flow will be very much like an airshow, with an opening, middle and end,” explained Peterson. “There will be time slots of two, six and 10 minutes for military and civilian performers. We’re trying to figure out a way to include the air bosses as well.”

The three brains behind the development of The Socially Distant Airshow, from left to right -- Rob Reider, Ric Peterson and Matt Jolley, of The Airshow Podcast. The Airshow Podcast Image
The three brains behind the development of The Socially Distant Airshow, from left to right — Rob Reider, Ric Peterson and Matt Jolley, of Show Center – The Airshow Podcast. Show Center — The Airshow Podcast Image

Throughout the show, viewers will be able to donate any amount they choose via a variety of convenient channels. Peterson said any support is appreciated, acknowledging that “this is a hard time for everyone.”

Less than 20 people are behind The Socially Distant Airshow, and it’s all being pulled together via online collaboration. Everyone is donating their time and there are no fees for acts to participate. One hundred per cent of all proceeds will go to the ICAS Foundation.

“I have to say the aviation industry is filled with some great minds,” said Peterson. “You have big-thinking people that want to get things done. The conference calls we’ve been on and the brainstorming has been fluid. Everyone is pulling in the same direction.”

Video content has already started to come in.

“It’s very unique. It will be very entertaining. Some of the performers are sending us classic manoeuvres and others are having fun with it.”

Peterson added that if organizers receive too much content, bonus material will likely be shared through social media channels. “No one will get left out of this.”

He said The Socially Distant Airshow is an exciting project for the three media veterans behind the Show Center podcast.

“Look at the content! It’s like doing all-hit radio and it will get better and better as it goes.”

Stay tuned to LiveAirshowTV on Facebook or Instagram for the latest updates on plans and performers.

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