The proposed air show will require some schooling, the county official says

To clarify that he has no intention of going to Las Vegas for a fun three-day fling, County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens asked for the Ways & Means Committee’s blessing to attend an airshow conference in December.

A trip to Nevada would include the cost of district staff time for the three-day event and a $508 registration fee. Hens said he will take care of travel and accommodation expenses, and he believes the investment will be worthwhile during the preliminary planning stages of an air show at Genesee County Airport.

“We do not sponsor the Air Show. We’re not the ones running the air show, but our airport is running an air show, and I think it’s important from an operational perspective, as well as safety for the visitors — the people who will be coming to the air show — that the county a showing a professional face and making sure we have a safe show and limiting county liability as much as possible,” Hens told the committee on Wednesday. “The two things that interest me most about the conference are their Airshow 101 and Airshow 102 certifications, which are classes they host.”

These two certification classes are more about aircraft movement and airport operational requirements than things like concessions and gate entry fees.

“It’s more about hosting the air show than running an air show,” Hens said.

The schedule also includes an orientation for first-time visitors, crisis communication, the human side of an air show and accidents: anticipating the unimaginable, and a few other topics.

That International Council of Air Shows is scheduled for December 12-15 in Las Vegas, and it’s a combination of a convention setting for flying acts to promote air shows across the country and a series of training sessions for air show operators and airport staff to learn how hosting This type of event is “safe and proper,” he said.

MP Shelley Stein noted the mention of a military jet team and asked what types of aircraft would land at the county airport. Hens said that one of the things the committee has discussed so far is a Cold War-era jet that doesn’t require as much runway and ground support as a modern F 22 or 23 fighter jet of the Blue Angels, they won’t be on the show next year, he said.

It’s possible to borrow planes from Cleveland and Toronto and share them with other air shows on the same weekend.

“So you could have an F-35 or F-20 fly by and do a short demonstration over the field, but they wouldn’t land at our airport,” he said. “And they would not need support from ground activities once they were in the field. It would just be a flyover from Toronto, do a 15 minute deal and fly to Cleveland and do a 15 minute deal. And that way, three air shows could share military assets.”

Those planning details will happen at the conference, he said, and it’s not something the county needs to be involved with. He agreed with Rep. Marianne Clattenburg, who summed up the goal of his trip as doing what she could to protect an airport county asset.

“Exactly. We invested a lot of money there. And so this has to happen without damage or liabilities,” he said.

Legislator Gary Maha emphasized the county’s need not to financially support the air show, and others concurred. Hens mentioned the logistics and awareness of providing accessible parking for wheelchair users or people with walking difficulties.

“Things we need to think about from a facility standpoint and protect ourselves from activities like trips and falls. So all these things are talked about in the sessions,” he said. “In the travel applications that I submitted, they only asked about the registration fee. For my part, I’m ready to get myself out of there. I have a place to stay out there; that’s already paid for. And airline miles, so not really out of pocket, just being away from the office and the conference registration fee.”

Clattenburg wanted to confirm that Hens – as he would be on the watch out west – would be available for Zoom meetings or any other needs, particularly “regarding our water issues.” Yes, he would, said Hens.

County manager Matt Landers believes it’s a worthwhile trip, he said.

“I think it’s important for him to have that knowledge when we have a large-scale air show like this in our community,” Landers said. “I agree with the legislature. I don’t think Tim with that background is showing that we’re sponsoring anything, but that we want to be prepared.”

The committee voted to approve the motion and send it to the entire legislature for a vote.

Hens said he will discuss the show with committee members later Wednesday.

dunbar-dennis-2-150x150.jpeg

Dennis Dunbar, director of air show operations for EAA AirVenture, president of Dunbar Airshows and organizer of the ICAS Safety and Operations Subcommittee, has been appointed committee chair for this local event, Hens said.

Top photo from Hens’ online media account; above, photo by Dennis Dunbar from Air Show Magazine.

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