Life-saving actions earn VIPs early flights at Dayton Air Show

Show draws thousands to Dayton, generates millions in economic impact.

The Dayton Vectren Air Show will welcome tens of thousands of aviation fans when gates open at 9 a.m. today, but some VIP guests got more than a front-row seat to the show Friday.

A 12-year-old Fairborn student and two local firefighters took flight Friday with some of the air shows most popular acts: California-based aerobatic pilot Sean D. Tucker and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

Captain Brian Seidenschmidt of the Dayton International Airport Fire and Rescue team was a special passenger for Thunderbirds pilot Lt. Col. Eric Gorney because he was able to say “this is what you enabled. You keep us flying.”

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Seidenschmidt, who heads the fire and rescue team at the Dayton International Airport, was one of two hometown heroes to fly Friday.

He was honored for leading the efforts to rescue the Thunderbird crew in the 2017 accident after an F-16 piloted by Maj. Erik "Speedy" Gonsalves flipped off a rain-soaked runway at the Vectren Dayton Air Show. Gonsalves survived and is flying again, and tech Sgt. Kenneth Cordova, riding in the back of the fighter jet, also survived.

“We get to take up a lot of people in the back seat of the airplanes, but when its a hometown hero, someone connected with the local community — especially in this case that’s been such an instrumental help to the team in getting us flying again — I can’t think of anything better,” Gorney said.

Seidenschmidt said he’s not a hero; he was just doing his job and the effort required his entire team. But he was excited for the ride.

“I’m still kind of stunned. It’s kind of like an out-of-body experience. You don’t really believe it’s happening,” Seidenschmidt said after the flight.

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Xenia firefighter Benjamin “Levi” Dalton also went up with the Thunderbirds on Friday afternoon, honored for using CPR to save a lifeless 17-month-old child in February.

“I’m honored to fly you, man,” said Maj. Jason Markzan, the pilot that took Dalton for his first flight in a fighter jet. “This is what it’s all about. Guys like you —firefighters, law enforcement — putting your lives on the line every single day to be able to give back.”

Dalton pulled 9.1 G’s and took the handle for 20 minutes of the ride, Dalton said. And he didn’t get sick at all.

“It’s amazing. No roller coaster could ever prepare you for that,” he said.

Twelve-year-old Olivia Collins also had a unique chance to ride with Tucker, who is the chair of the Young Eagles, a program started by the Experimental Aircraft Association to get young people interested in aviation.

Collins said she was “kind of nervous” as she boarded Tucker’s Oracle stunt plane on Friday. As she prepared for take off, her mom Angela Collins was even more nervous, Angela said. But her dad Rick Collins said he taught her to love aviation from a young age.

“We went upside down, we did loops, we did rolls … I liked all of it except for going upside down,” Olivia said. “I guess it was just scary and I felt like I was going to fall out even though I know I couldn’t.”

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Throughout the flight, she said she could see a lot of trees, land and houses, and most of what was going through her mind was the hope that she wouldn’t die, but she was also having a lot of fun. After landing, she said she would do it again.

She’s considering a career in the Air Force or as a nurse.

Air Show attendees today will be able to see both Tucker and the Thunderbirds along with several other famous acts, weather permitting. Weather has a major influence on attendance at the Air Show, and today’s forecasts anticipates some rain and a few isolated storms, mainly in the morning, along with a chance for some more in the evening. Highs will be in the mid-70s, according to Storm Center 7.

Last year roughly 62,000 people went to the weekend’s events that had a $3.7 million impact, Scott Buchanan, board chairman of the show, previously told the Dayton Daily News.


Gates open at 9 a.m.

Feature show: Noon to 4:15 p.m.

Gates close at 6 p.m.

Note: Show schedule is the same for both days but subject to change.


Flag Drop and National Anthem

U.S. Army Golden Knights

British Sea Harrier

GEICO Skytypers

U.S. Air Force C-17 & KC-135 Demonstration

Team Oracle

U.S. Navy F/A-18F/Corsair Legacy Flight

Jacquie B

Shockwave Jet Truck

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds

*All acts and times are subject to change without notice.

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