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Air Shows Gain Altitude as Economy Loses Ground

Air show executives and industry officials cite record attendance for air shows and related events this year compared to previous years. Attendance at such exhibitions is expected to climb to between 14 million and 16 million people, which is a 20 percent increase over 2008. The 23rd Annual Biplane Expo in Bartlesville, Okla., in June drew 6,500 people over two days, which is twice as many people that normally attend, according to chairman and co-founder Charles Harris. He attributes the high turnout to exceptional weather as well as the fact that the expo “was widely advertised as the grand finale so airplane people and the public wanted to attend.” Harris says the economic recession has encouraged more people to make the long trips to see air shows or aviation gatherings, noting that the entertainment value is such that many people will go to such events in lieu of a family vacation. At AirVenture 2009 in Oshkosh, Wis., attendance grew 12 percent from 2008, for a total of 578,000 attendees. “People are just fascinated about aviation,” says Tulsa, Okla., aviation enthusiast Ross Adkins. “More people are becoming interested in aviation because more are flying light sport aircraft, which has a minimum of 20 hours to get a [pilot’s] license. If you can ride a bicycle, you can learn to fly.”

September 16, 2009

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