“Absolutely perfect” weather fueled a turnout of 51,000 spectators at the Vectren Dayton Air Show, a significant jump from last year when heavy rains pummeled the show on its first day.
“Last year with all of that rain and so on it was just a bad, bad weekend for an air show,” said Roger Doctor, a Dayton Air Show spokesman. “But this year’s weather was absolutely perfect and I’m sure that counts for the majority of it.”
With plenty of sun and temperatures in the 80s, the air show counted 36,000 people on Saturday and 15,000 on Sunday to see about a dozen acts, from speeding fighter jets to acrobatic stunts by top civilian performers like Sean D. Tucker and Patty Wagstaff. More than 20 aircraft were on the ground, including for the first time in Dayton two F-35 Lightning IIs, the newest U.S. fighter and part of the the largest display of military static aircraft in years.
The turnout easily surpassed last year when an estimated 40,000 spectators showed up to see the Air Force Thunderbirds perform at Dayton International Airport. A deluge of rain hit the show hard its first day last year, delaying the start of performances for hours.
In a typical year the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels perform, as many as 65,000 spectators or more show up to watch the spectacle in the skies.
This year’s air show had the Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth fighter as the headline act after the Navy’s Blue Angels canceled an appearance in Dayton and at three other sites because of a tragic June 2 crash in Tennessee that claimed the life of one of its F/A-18 pilots, Marine Capt Jeff Kuss, during a practice air show.
The jet team has resumed practicing twice a day preparing to fly back onto the air show circuit.
“We knew we were going to be down from our normal (attendance level) because of the Blues cancellation … but we probably did a little better than we expected,” said Terry Grevious, Dayton Air Show executive director. Organizers won’t know for days if the annual event broke even on expenses or tallied a profit, he said.
In a highly unusual coincidence, a Thunderbird jet also crashed June 2 after the team flew over an Air Force Academy graduation where President Barack Obama delivered a commencement address to cadets. The pilot ejected safely and the F-16 fighter plane landed in a field.
Thunderbird pilots took to the skies this past weekend in Ocean City, Md., for their first air show since the accident.
The Dayton Air Show recorded 57 spectators who sought medical treatment, six of whom were transported to hospitals for undisclosed issues, according to air show organizers.
The Thunderbirds will headline the Dayton Air Show on June 24-25, 2017.
Staff writer Kara Driscoll contributed to this story.
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