The Impact of Air Shows, Fly-overs, Open Houses, and Guest Days 
on Public Opinion
Jon Connor, Patricia Huizinga, Peter Kerr
  • Introduction
  • Demonstration Teams
  • Air Show Cost & Popularity
  • Theoretical Basis
  • Costs of Military-Sponsored Public Events
  • Study Design, Method & Results
  • Pilot Study
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions
  • Appendix A
  • Appendix B
  • Appendix C
  • Appendix D
  • References
  • About the authors
  • The U.S. Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights, consists of two 12-person teams that travel up to 260 days annually. In 1998, they performed 27,000 jumps for 13 million spectators. Golden Knights commander, Lt. Col. David Stahl, stated the Knights are an example of "good people doing good things," and are a positive point of contact between the Army and America's citizens (Laurenzo, 1999).

    Since their inception in 1959, the Golden Knights have performed more than 8,500 live aerial demonstrations in all 50 states and 47 other countries. This elite parachute team has won 129 national and 23 world champion titles. Their visibility and service has earned them the title of the "Army's Goodwill Ambassadors to the World" (U.S. Army, 1999).

    The Golden Knight's trademark is performing precision aerial maneuvers while falling 120 miles-per-hour from aircraft and then landing dead center on a target. The unit is headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina with a total of 90 soldiers making up the Golden Knights (U.S. Army, 1999). Their number one officially stated mission is to perform live aerial demonstrations for the public and to promote the Army's public relations and recruiting efforts (U.S. Army, 1999).

    Likewise, the U.S. Air Force demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, draw 18 million people each year (Jackson, 1988). The F-16 Fighting Falcons perform many aerial maneuvers including barrel rolls and tight formation flying.

    The Thunderbirds squadron is comprised of eight pilots, four support officers, three civilians and 130 enlisted personnel. They perform 88 air demonstrations annually and have performed for more than 280 million people in all 50 states and 57 countries totaling 3,500 aerial shows (U.S. Air Force, 1999). The squadron was officially activated in 1953 and is headquartered at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

    The largest crowd to see them was at Coney Island, New York, July 4, 1987 with 2.25 million people. Also that year, they gave the first American military demonstration performance in a communist country, China. More recently, the Thunderbirds were viewed via television by an estimated 3.5 billion people during the opening ceremonies of the Centennial Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, 1996 (U.S. Air Force, 1999).

    The Thunderbirds' number one goal is to "support Air Force recruiting and retention programs" followed by reinforcing public confidence in the Air Force and demonstrating to the public the professional competence of airmen (U.S. Air Force, 1999).

    The U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, have performed for 337 million people since its inception in 1946. In 1999, 15 million spectators witnessed the Navy's elite aerial demonstration team. During the 2000 season, the Blue Angels are scheduled to fly 70 air shows at 35 locations stateside (U.S. Navy, 2000).

    In 1992, the squadron performed its first European expedition in 19 years for more than one million people during a 30-day tour.

    The Blue Angels demonstration aircraft are 11 F/A-18 Hornets, whose pilots are either active duty Navy or Marine tactical jet pilots (U.S. Navy, 2000).

    The official mission of the Blue Angels is to "enhance Navy recruiting" followed by credibly representing Navy and Marine Corps aviation to stateside and foreign publics, and to serve as goodwill ambassadors to the American public and other countries. Additionally, the team expects to visit with 50,000-plus children during school visits on Fridays of each show site (U.S. Navy, 2000).

    This website was constructed as part of a research project under the auspices of the University of Oklahoma and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Defense.