I got together with Eddie Andreini from Half Moon Bay and Bud Granley from Bellevue Washington to interview them about airshows and how they’ve changed over the years. Since it's the one hundredth anniversary of air shows, I thought we could talk about how airshows have changed, since both of them, together, have about 100 years of airshow flying.
Bud - I want you to know I wasn't at that first airshow in Reims France in 1909!
Eddie - And neither was I!
Evan - How do the airshows that you've flown at in the past compare to today’s airshows?
Bud – Well, the airplane I'm flying now is the same airplane I flew in my first airshow as a demonstration pilot for the Canadian Air Force. I have my own T-6 now and it’s my primary airshow airplane along with a Yak 55 and a Fouga Magister. The airshow I did then is pretty much the same as the airshow I'm doing now except I wasn't allowed to do things in the military like the snap roll when I take off and some other things.
Bud in his T-6 above and in his Fouga Magister below
(photos courtesy of Bud Granley
Eddie - We still have the Stearman which is kind of the original type barnstorming plane and I started out performing in the Stearman also. I did my first airshow probably in 1964 or something like that and I’ve flown different planes but basically I'm still flying a Stearman, and I'm flying also the Yak 9.
Eddie in his Stearman and his Yak 9
Evan – How were airshows set up then versus now?
Bud – Airshows back then, you would go out and you'd sit in the grass or a sandy field. Airshows are much more comfortable now. They’ve got chalets, there's lots more services, lots more things to make it more family oriented where you don't have to sit and suffer quite as much as you used to.
Evan – What specific changes have you seen between early airshows and modern airshows?
Bud - In the old days it was okay if you decided to go up and do something stupid and dangerous because you’d only kill yourself. There is a lot more organization now with the International Council of Airshows and the Regional Councils of Airshows and we demand safety of each other. It turns out in the last few years we haven't lost anybody during an airshow which means that were keeping the public safe. There's a lot of peer pressure on performance orientation, safety, and that sort of thing.
Eddie - And you know we practice more and there's more of a defined area that we have to fly in. Peer pressure and regulations stating that you have to be so high and that depends at what skill level you're at. So that’s made a big difference for that. But also the planes and routines are much higher performance today and so things just happen quicker sometimes. So there is danger, there is risk there.
Bud - You have to watch your ego. Ego it’s wonderful to have an ego because it puts you where you are but it's also one of your biggest enemies.
Evan – So its lot safer now than it used to be.
Bud - Well, that's the goal and I think what makes it safe is the expectation by your peers not to go do anything stupid. If somebody's out there and the Council of Airshows hear they’re doing something a little goofy, it'll come to the organization's attention and somebody will make a phone call and there will be an agreement that behaviors will change. There is a payoff now against doing something stupid.
Evan - What do you think airshows will be like in the future? What changes do you think we'll see between now and in the future?
Bud - Not as many warbirds because warbirds are more expensive. In the old days remember, Eddie, we could go to Modesto, or Madera and maybe 25 Mustangs would show up and the guys would come just for gas, that's going to go away. So it's going to be harder to put on that sort of deal.
Eddie - I think that what really gets hurt the worst are the smaller shows because the larger shows now have a larger pool to draw from of people that are sponsored. They're being sponsored and so the sponsor, if it wants to go to airshows someplace, they will go as far as paying the show to get there. With the little shows, they can’t afford that. The little shows have to really monitor their budget and can't afford a lot of warbirds sometimes because of the cost of fuel and other expenses. So that becomes prohibitive.
Bud - After the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels and an F-18, F-16 or an F-15, or a named organized team, warbirds are the number one draw. Named performers are quite a ways down the list after that. I mean like Shawn Tucker, as well known as he is, comes way behind say warbirds or Thunderbirds or something like that.
Eddie - That's correct, but he's still on top of the list because he's got a big sponsor. And yet with the luxury of being sponsored, you can go and fly the big shows.
Bud - I don't know how many people come to shows to see us!
Eddie - But things are changing and it's tougher like I said for the small shows. Those are the ones that are going to get hit the worst. And I think probably down the road you're going to see fewer airshows. Possibly fewer shows and more people who are coming out of the military are now flying in airshows, which is kind of unusual.
Bud - In the last year, even with the financial hard times, where it's harder to get money for sponsorship, attendance at airshows is up 15 or 20% because people are hanging around home instead of going off on a trip to Italy or whatever, they're actually staying around home and doing the family deal at the airshows.
Evan - Thanks guys have anything else that you'd like to add?
Bud - I'm sure glad you're doing this Evan
Eddie - Thank you for having me on Evan. You know, Bud’s done a lot more than I have but I think that this stuff is still the mainstay for airshows and especially the kind of planes that we fly. I really believe that the warbirds that they’re flying and planes like my Stearman too, are something that's been around from the beginning and are still there today because there definitely is an attraction and an appeal for the people.
Bud - The little airplanes that are doing all these multiple tricks are just fantastic. They will never stop making better and better aerobatic airplanes. Mind you, they're starting to look a lot alike now. They all tumble and do the same kinds of things, that’s why I think it's neat to see the warbirds, the older planes, and the formation teams.
Evan - Well thank you so much guys this was great!
Bud giving me a cockpit orientation in a Yak
Special thanks to Eddie and Bud for taking the time to answer all my questions.