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
  • Despite the fact that many continental United States (CONUS) bases are open for the American public to drive through, there is still a sense of mystery surrounding what the military does. In order to take the mystery out of the military, every armed forces branch of the Department of Defense spends countless man-hours each year to bring to the surrounding communities special types of public-oriented events. These events include fly-overs, open houses, guest days, and air shows.

    A fly-over is used many times as a way to draw attention to the aviation branches of the services. An airplane or several airplanes (or helicopters) are flown over a special event. The event may be anything from a funeral to a baseball game.

    An open house is a day set aside for all civilians to come aboard a base, ship or post and see service members performing their job. Tours are usually given of spaces and work centers that are visually stimulating or are unusual and awe-inspiring. The open house usually offers guests a chance to try military food and shop for branch-specific patches, stickers, ball caps and T-shirts.

    Guest days are very similar to open houses, however, they are restricted to invited guests. The guests are typically centers of influence (COIs), people who are in a position to benefit the military directly, either by representing the service with the intent to increase the military budget or the service's ability to attract qualified recruits. Many COIs are educators, financial and business leaders and politicians. Sometimes guest days are used to educate spouses, and reward them for their support.

    Air shows are held on air stations, air bases and sometimes at commercial airfields. They are typically two-days long and include major military demonstration teams like the Navy's Blue Angels, the Air Force's Thunderbirds and the Army's Golden Knights. Civilian aerial teams are sometimes represented. On the tarmac are countless static displays of military aircraft, tanks, boats, and other modes of transportation. Many times other military jobs and history are represented at these free-to-the-public events. Air shows usually attract media attention as well. Additionally, the opportunity exists for the base commander to specifically invite COIs, providing them special access and seating.

    Typically the largest attraction at an air show is a demonstration team. In order to better attract the public and the media, three of the armed services have their own highly specialized demonstration teams (the Marines fly with the Navy demonstration team). These teams perform acts that are inherently more dangerous than standard military training operations, in order to thrill the crowds. Demonstration teams are key to understanding the cost and impact of air shows, and thus are discussed in further detail.

    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.