And Now Comes the Hard Part


In the summer of 2002, nearly one-third of all ICAS members took the time to respond to a detailed membership needs survey prepared and distributed on behalf of the ICAS Board of Directors by Association Research, Inc., an independent survey research firm located in Rockville, Maryland.

The survey, commissioned as part of a larger effort to chart the future direction for ICAS over the next several months and years, provided ICAS members with an opportunity to voice their opinions: what they like, what they don’t like, what they think is important, what they don’t think is important. In turn, those opinions provided the ICAS Board of Directors and staff with enlightening insight on the collective perspective of the entire ICAS membership.

In general, event organizer members of ICAS were more satisfied with ICAS benefits and services than performers and support service providers.  As an example, 81 percent of event organizer members said that they were very satisfied or satisfied overall with ICAS while only 46.5 percent of performer members and 51 percent of support service providers were very satisfied or satisfied overall. These differences between event organizers and performers/support service providers held true for nearly all of the survey questions and, by themselves, have indicated to the ICAS Board of Directors that there is work to be done in providing more and improved benefits to ICAS performers and support service providers.

In general, members expressed overall satisfaction with the ICAS Convention, ICAS publications and ICAS efforts to represent the air show community with the military and government regulators. Fast Facts, Air Shows Magazine and the exhibition and networking portions of the ICAS Convention were singled out for the highest levels of satisfaction.

Members were most dissatisfied with ICAS efforts to represent the industry with prospective sponsors, with ICAS responsiveness to member needs, and with the ability of ICAS and its leadership to understand member needs. Performer members also expressed considerable dissatisfaction with ICAS administration of the Aerobatic Competency Evaluation (ACE) program.

Approximately one-third of those responding to the survey also included written comments, providing additional and specific detail to the more general feedback offered by the multiple choice responses.

The comments of event organizers focused on three issues: the need for ICAS to assume a leadership position in attracting national sponsors to the air show industry; the need for ICAS and the relevant regulatory agencies to participate in the development of industry-wide standards on post-9/11 security; and the need for some type of ICAS-initiated attendance auditing program to limit and eventually eliminate the widespread exaggeration of attendance figures throughout the industry.

Written comments by performers made it clear that a significant portion of ICAS performers are not satisfied with ICAS administration of the ACE program and that they consider the administrative fees for the program to be too high. Performer members also expressed concern that ICAS spends too much of its time and resources supporting sponsored and “big name” performers at the expense of newcomers and more regionally-oriented performers. A significant portion of performer members also suggested that ICAS become involved in a national sponsorship program.

Support service providers offered written comments that made it clear that they think they are marginalized by both ICAS and the rest of the air show community. They made it clear that they believe they deserve more attention and programming tailored to their specific needs.

The ICAS Board of Directors has focused significant portions of their last two meetings analyzing the results and implications of this survey data.  Several different courses of action have been discussed and specific steps have already been taken to begin addressing the single most common concern: that ICAS do a better job at attracting national sponsors into the air show business.

But, as involved and time consuming as the survey process was, and as detailed and extended as the discussions and analysis of the survey results have already been, nobody understands better than the ICAS Board of Directors and the ICAS staff that the work done so far is the easy part.

The challenge facing our organization and our industry is to take that feedback and begin doing something with it to improve the organization’s usefulness to its members and to increase the impact that ICAS has on the overall well-being of the entire air show business. For that, ICAS will need time, hard work and the continued support, encouragement and feedback of the entire membership.  I believe that our organization is prepared for the challenge and I look forward to providing you with regular reports on our progress.

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John Cudahy
John Cudahy, ICAS President. | John Cudahy first joined ICAS as the organization's president in June of 1997. He has worked his entire 36-year professional career in association management, including more than two decades as the chief executive officer of ICAS. A graduate of the University of Virginia, Cudahy holds a private pilot certificate and is married with two adult children.