October 20, 2008

What is Aviation Entertainment?

Wally Meyer used the term “Aviation Entertainment” in 2007 to describe Roger Dodger Aviation's niche, but what is the aviation entertainment industry and how is it defined?

Depending on where your Google machine takes you, aviation entertainment can mean air show acts or in-flight movie systems or even Zero-G flights.

Air Shows and Fly-Ins
For starters, let’s say that aviation entertainment means large air shows featuring headliners like the US Navy Blue Angels, USAF Thunderbirds or Canadian Snowbirds and dozens of smaller acts. This is spectating at its finest and millions of people attend air shows annually.

EAA AirVenture and Sun’n’Fun draw large crowds of spectators, and also pilots that arrive in their own airplanes to attend. These events are also “fly-ins.”

Smaller community fly-ins should be included as aviation entertainment. These are technically not air shows because airspace is not set aside for an aerobatics box. Because of this, spectators may be offered the opportunity to fly in a real airplane. There are hundreds of fly-in events every year.

Scenic flights offered to the public are a statistically smaller segment of the industry. Some examples are flights over the Grand Canyon, beaches and the Plaza Lights in Kansas City.

RC, Flight Sims, etc.
After this point, the definitions of aviation entertainment become a little less clear. For example, should radio-controlled airplanes be included in aviation entertainment? At an RC air show, the crowd watches small airplanes flying aerobatics up close instead of large airplanes far away and the people seem to be equally entertained.

What about aviation museums like the Smithsonian National Air and Space museum, or the Strategic Air and Space Museum or the dozens of smaller museums? People can see the airplanes on static display here, similar to the static displays an air show or fly-in.

Are flight simulators a part of aviation entertainment? Expensive aircraft training simulators are a part of the flight training industry, so are inexpensive hobby flight sims a part of aviation entertainment? One could simply lump the flight simmers in with the computer gaming crowd, but that would ignore the fact that flight sims are appearing at fly-ins and air shows as attractions in their own right. This is starting to bridge the gap between real and sim flying, and between spectator and participant.

These two examples here and here show the artful blending of both real and aviation attractions. These locations are in Europe where the cost of real flying is much higher than the USA. Could America be headed this direction?

Flying for Fun
Most pilots fly for fun. FAA statistics show that the aircraft hours logged for personal flying are significant and outnumber the hours logged for business, corporate, instructional, crop dusting, etc. The number of airplanes flown for personal use outnumbers all other types as well. It’s ironic that we never seem to hear much about that. Many people think of boating, skiing, bicycling, camping and sports as obvious recreational activities, but flying doesn’t often come to mind.

Are these valid examples? Is there a definition for the aviation entertainment industry that would sum up these examples?

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