Our Common Passion

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As I sit down to write my quarterly message, the stock market is in free fall, and presidential politics have degenerated to less-than-one-month-until-the-election name calling and back biting. The heavy weight of troubled times and big decisions hangs in the air like a rain-swollen thunder cloud. And the business of air shows seems secondary as all of us watch these enormous dramas unfold in Washington, New York and around the world. 

But most of the time, politics and world finance are not the substance of our lives. They are the background against which our real lives are conducted. Our families and our friends. Our jobs and our hobbies. Our passions and our day-to-day schedules. These are our real lives, the things we care most about and which occupy most of our time. 

And that’s one of the many things that make the air show business so different from so many other businesses, hobbies and leisure activities. Nearly everybody reading these words is involved in the air show business because they want to be. Of all the many things you could invest your time, energy and emotion in, you have deliberately decided to commit yourself to the business of air shows. 

And that makes all the difference. 

During the last several months, ICAS has been contacting members and asking them to share information – sometimes proprietary information – with their fellow members. We are gathering this information on a new website that we will launch late this year, a new and powerful information resource that will be available to all members within the next few weeks. Our requests for information have been greeted positively and enthusiastically by nearly the entire membership. Air show professionals are not just willing to share their information with one another; they are eager. They see the website specifically and ICAS generally as an opportunity to help the entire industry become more effective and more professional. 

Just ten months ago, ICAS embarked on an ambitious initiative to change the culture of air show safety. Although there are certainly business reasons for improving safety in our industry, the principal impetus for this new program was a genuine desire to reduce the number of friends we lose to air show-related accidents. And for just that reason, the initial launch of this long-term program has been a big hit. To ICAS members, air show professionals are not simply business associates; they’re friends. Our members have embraced this initiative, in part, because it squares so well with how they feel about their air show colleagues. 

In a few short weeks, when we gather 1,700 like-minded people at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas, just about every one of them will be there because they want to be there. Indeed, many of them could not imagine being anywhere else. They will arrive with the common goals of renewing friendships, learning lessons from the just-concluded 2008 air show season, and beginning the planning for another successful season in 2009. And every indicator we have suggests that the recent economic downturn will have no significant impact on attendance at this year’s convention. For most ICAS members, the ICAS Convention is not an optional trip. It’s a necessary tool that helps them pursue one of their life’s principal passions. 

I think that part of what has made our ICAS Convention so successful over the years is the simple fact that it gives people with a common passion the opportunity to spend time with other people who share that passion. Year in and year out, our members identify the social functions at the Convention as one of the most important things to them. No wonder, really. If there’s anything our members like as much as air shows, it’s the opportunity to spend time with people who like air shows as much as they do. 

So, even as national and international issues and challenges become a bigger part of our day-to-day life than we might like, it’s worth taking a few minutes to remember that, in the not-too-distant future, we will likely return to some approximate version of normal.  For most of us, an important part of “normal” is our involvement in this wonderful, inspiring, infectious business. 

In the meantime, good luck. I look forward to seeing many of you in Las Vegas early next month.

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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.