An estimated 44,000 people attended the show in 2017, a decline from 2016's attendance of about 51,000. Organizers blamed low attendance at last year's air show on the cancellation of the Air Force Thunderbirds as the headline act due to a crash and record rainfall that caused parking delays.
Military jet teams like the Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels are the biggest draw for the air show and organizers bank on their appearance to bring tens of thousands to the grounds at James M. Cox Dayton International Airport. The show can draw as many as 65,000 or more spectators when the teams fly, officials say.
“The Blue Angels delighted the crowd,” Doctor said. The show has seen varied attendance throughout the years. In 2003, more than 110,000 people attended a four-day exhibition celebrating the centennial anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first flight. By contrast, fewer than 25,000 people attended the show in 2013 when a fatal crash occurred on Saturday and no jet team performed.
The weather, which Doctor said was the best the air show had experienced in several years, also played a factor in attendance. However, Doctor said some attendees may have held off going on Saturday morning when it was cloudy and there was a chance for rain.
Doctor said there was one small car crash near the show, but credited the police departments that assisted with traffic for a mostly safe traffic situation in 2018. He said the parking lots cleared just an hour after the show.
“I did not receive a single negative comment,” he said.
MORE: Blue Angels thrill crowd
Scott Buchanan, United States Air and Trade Show chairman, said he met people who have traveled to Dayton several times to watch the air show, and was told by attendees that they enjoy the Dayton area hospitality.
“They like to come here,” Buchanan said.
Chris and Sandy Porter of Bloomington, Ind., arrived Friday night to meet with family members from Columbus.
“It’s more just about being together with family,” Sandy Porter said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Doctor said commercial airlines were largely unaffected by the show, since one runway is generally kept open to commercial traffic.
Looking ahead, Doctor said the Blue Angels could possible return in 2020, and the Thunderbirds are already booked for 2019.
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Staff Writer Barrie Barber contributed reporting.