The Show Before the Air Show

Without the annual ICAS trade show, there would be no smoke and aerobatics.

Jack Link's Screamin' Sasquatch Jet Waco almost seems to blend in with the carpet while on display at the John Klatt Airshows booth. The International Council of Air Shows conference and exhibit hall were held at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas in early December. (Dennis Biela)
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Fans may come to an air show for the spectacle, but its safety and staging are deliberate and even dull. Each December and usually in Las Vegas, the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) brings together show managers, pilots and performers, along with food, drink and merchandise companies, to help plan more than 200 shows for the next year in North America.

Video, photos, and candy? Airshow performer Julie Clark uses all three to draw attendees to her booth. (Dennis Biela)
Rex Pemberton (left) of Evolve Aerosports discusses the merits of his x-wing with prospective air show promoters. (Dennis Biela)
If you ever wanted to sit in the cockpit of an A-7D Corsair II or have something different at your kid’s birthday party, the front half of the plane is available for booking from Dream Big Entertainment. (Dennis Biela)
An airshow coordinator consults with Heather Hodge of Franklin Flying Circus about performer Kyle Franklin’s availability. Most airshow representatives are volunteers and take time off from their full time jobs to attend the ICAS conference. (Dennis Biela)
Aerobatics champion Michael Goulian, live and in person at his ICAS display. (Dennis Biela)
Commander Ryan Bernacchi welcomes attendees to the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels workshop, where they learn about the team’s logistics, personnel, and other requirements. (Dennis Biela)
Mark Sorenson of Twin Tigers Aerobatic Team blows airshow smoke around his booth—a realistic effect, even if it did reduce visibility. (Dennis Biela)
Redline Airshows had two RC Van RV-8 airplanes on display above their booth, while Jon Thocker (left) & Ken Rieder (middle) traded business cards with show attendees. (Dennis Biela)
The Shockwave Jet Truck’s three Pratt & Whitney jet engines (from the Navy’s T2 Buckeye trainer) put out 21,000 pounds of thrust—equivalent to 36,000 horsepower, or enough to propel the truck to speeds of over 350 mph. (Dennis Biela)

Attendance at ICAS is limited to professionals in the air show industry, who shake hands at its exhibit booths, discuss safety, logistics, and business management at its seminars, and honor their own members for showmanship and excellence at a banquet held on its final night. No flying takes place at ICAS, but some of the world’s most capable pilots are easy to find, particular on flight suit day.
 
Early in the convention, major performance groups such as the USAF Thunderbirds, US Navy Blue Angels, and major civilian performers sign up to appear at shows, while the rest of the convention is devoted to booking a variety of aircraft and ground-based attractions that help to draw crowds.

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