Rules Contribute To Safe Operations
by ANN Correspondent Dave Slosson
We all go to AirVenture for various reasons, but there's one
thing we can all agree on: The daily air shows are fantastic!
There's a very good reason for that. Tom Poberezny and his EAA
staff invite the performers for each year and set up the sequence
of the acts. An air boss figures out the timing and variety of the
acts to maximize spectator enjoyment. The air boss briefs the
performers on their sequence and how much time they're allotted for
their act, then announces and oversees the performance. They watch
out for any safety issues, and coordinate with the FAA, tower, and
ground personnel as well as airport security.
It is a tribute to these dedicated professionals that no
spectator fatality has occurred on North American soil since air
show rules were developed nearly 50 years ago. I talked with two of
the best in the business, Jim Minning and Wayne Boggs, for their
background in becoming air bosses.
Jim Minning states, "I've been a pilot ever since I was a kid."
He flew for Capital Airlines before it was absorbed by United,
working his way up to DC-10 captain. As a sidelight, he was an
airshow performer for 40 years, flying the "Comedy Cub". The act
called for him to land on a moving cartop and do a deadstick
landing, things Sean Tucker claims is the "dumb stuff."
Jim says in the early days, the announcer ran the show. As the
air shows became more choreographed, a dedicated air boss ran the
operation. Jim said for a while, he alternated between flying in
the show or being the air boss under the oversight of another. Once
Charlie Hillard took over as air boss at AirVenture, Jim was his
assistant. After Charlie was killed, Jim took over the duties.
Jim feels it's best to have an experienced performer acting as
air boss for the understanding of what the pilots need to know in
the briefings and how to communicate adjustments during the show.
Each act has a certain window of time to perform, and the total
time must remain within the airspace waiver time. The air boss
releases the act and clears them to land at the end. There are
always two air bosses working at a time to back each other up and
provide the extra level of safety with an extra pair of eyes.
During the portion that Jim controls, Jim runs the acts over Runway
18/36, and the other air boss controls Runway 9/27. Jim says he's
had few problems over the years as the performers that come to
AirVenture are the best in the business.
Once the Warbirds take over the field, it's a slightly different
story. Wayne Boggs retired as an air traffic controller in 2004
with over 40 years of federal service. He worked at Midway tower
and Tampa tower, and was in charge of all the contract towers in
the Southern Region. He had worked air shows as kind of a hobby
until the EAA asked him one year to run the Warbirds portion of the
show for them. He has done it every year since, and now has his own
company to book other shows as well.
Wayne runs a two hour pre-show briefing (shown above) that
covers which group takes off when, where they go to form up, and
when they're supposed to be over show center, at which altitude and
coming from which direction. Since there are so many airplanes
launched and recovered during this portion of the show, Wayne runs
the entire airport himself. There is still another air boss to back
him up, but they're for safety reasons, not running the other
Jim says Wayne has earned the reputation as the best in the
business, without any doubt.