Weather hurts Dayton Air Show attendance

Sunday attendance was double of what showed up on Saturday.

Sunday’s mostly sunny and clear conditions saw more than twice as many people turn out to see the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Breitling Jet Team compared to the prior day. About 13,000 people showed up Saturday, and about 27,000 spectators on Sunday, said Terry Grevious, the air show’s executive director.

“Despite the weather, we had a lot of people come out and we had a great show,” Grevious said.

By comparison, last year about 65,000 people walked through the show’s gates to see the Navy’s Blue Angels acrobatic routine and a line-up of other acts. Typically, 60 percent of an air show crowd will visit on the first day of the two-day event, he said.

This year’s attendance was the second lowest in a decade. The lowest year was 2013, when sequestration budget cuts forced all U.S. jet teams to cancel.

Sunday sales were also buoyed by families coming to the show on Father’s Day, organizers said.

Dozens of cars were mired in the mud in a grassy field that doubled as a parking area Saturday, although officials did not have an exact count of how many vehicles were towed or pushed out.

On Saturday, the take-off of the air show was delayed about two-and-a-half hours after opening ceremonies because of rain and low clouds from the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill.

“We were close to having a washout and that would have been a big problem for us to deal with,” said Michael Emoff, chairman of the United States Air & Trade Show. “But we pushed that show through” when conditions improved and a window opened for the fliers to launch safely.

The Thunderbirds and the Breitling Jet Team, the headline acts, flew acrobatic demonstrations both days, but some performers scrubbed performances Saturday, grounded by the rainy weather. The air show had a Federal Aviation Administration OK’d contingency plan to fly about an hour longer than planned in restricted air space due to weather conditions.

“I’m really pleased beyond words that we were able to get Saturday’s show in given the window,” Emoff said.

Dayton International Airport had 0.65 inches of rain Saturday, according to News Center 7 meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs.

For the month, the airport measured 5.25 inches of rainfall, or 2.3 inches above normal, said Myron Padgett, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Wilmington.

Motorists were directed to paved parking lots Sunday near the airport to avoid a repeat of vehicles stuck in saturated grassy fields and backing up traffic on routes leading to the air show, Emoff said.

“We didn’t have an option,” he said. “We couldn’t park them in the mud.”

Good Samaritans helped pull stuck motorists out of the mud or the air show paid to have the vehicles towed, Grevious said.

Air show officials said Monday it was too early to say if the event broke even or lost money financially because final revenues and expenses won’t be known for weeks. “The air show is financially solvent even if we had a loss this year,” Grevious said.

Next year’s Dayton Air Show is set to launch June 18-19, 2016 with the Blue Angels as the headline act.