For 50 years, air show has ‘raised people’s eyes — and imaginations — to the sky’

The CenterPoint Energy Dayton Air Show is marking its 50th anniversary this weekend. In today’s Ideas & Voices, hear from contributor Tim Gaffney, who covered the event for decades at the Dayton Daily News, and wing walker Patty Wagner, who performed at the very first event in 1974, as they discuss the history and importance of the event to our region.

Wing walker Patty Wagner discusses growing up in Dayton, first air show

“I didn’t know anything about aviation. Growing up, my dad had taken me when I was six or so up at the Dayton airport for a helicopter ride one time, and I’d never been up or anything. It never occurred to me to learn to fly. It was never in the cards at all. But I just always remembered that ride. And then my dad died when I was 10 — it was just my mom and me. But then, when I was 17, I went down to Moraine to the airport with a family friend who was learning to fly. And that’s when my eyes really opened. I was so excited, I put my name on the schedule. I went home and I told my mom, who said ‘Absolutely not.’ I had never defied her. I mean, I still feel bad, but when I turned 18, the next weekend, I was down at the airport. And that’s when I started learning to fly. I was always a tomboy. I liked cars, so airplanes are a little different, and there just weren’t any other girls down there at that time.”

- Read more from Patty Wagner

Credit: Timothy R. Gaffney

Credit: Timothy R. Gaffney

On its 50th Anniversary, Dayton Airshow seems ‘timeless’

“The air show has grown and now regularly hosts one of America’s premier jet teams — this year it’s the U.S. Navy Blue Angels — as well as a variety of advanced military aircraft, vintage warbirds and the top names among civilian air show performers.

In some ways the show seems timeless. For example, the F-16 is still in service. In fact, the Air Force F-16 demonstration jet scheduled to fly in this year’s show sports the original paint scheme of its prototype, celebrating the venerable jet’s own 50th anniversary.

But the show has always reflected change as well. It was among the first venues to see the B-1B “Bone” swing-wing bomber, the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter and the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. Even the F-16, while outwardly similar, is far more capable than early models.

The event has the ability to change lives. I can’t remember how many times an aviation professional at the show told me the path to their career began with a childhood visit to the show.”

- Read more from contributor Tim Gaffney


General Admission tickets are $42 and can be purchased online or on site. Parking is included in the ticket price. Gates close at 6 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

Want to celebrate the air show early? The Vandalia-Butler Chamber of Commerce Dayton Air Show Parade will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday. The route begins at St. Christopher’s parking lot (on U.S. 40 near I-75), travels west to the historic Crossroads of America, turns north on North Dixie and finishes at the Delphi plant on Northwoods Boulevard.

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