At an air show earlier this season, a scheduled airliner was landed on a runway inside the aerobatic box during the practice session of an aerobatic performer. The aerobatic performer was not aware of the arriving aircraft until hours later. It was known at the time of the incident that the aerobatic performer was having radio communication problems. When the air boss attempted to make radio contact with the performer, the performer did not hear it and did not confirm hearing it. The air boss, in fact, turned control of the incident runway back to air traffic control while the aerobatic box was active. Additionally, the air show briefing did not include any mention of the possibility of airline arrivals. During the course of an ICAS safety investigation on the circumstances surrounding the incident, the air boss repeatedly defended his actions and never understood the seriousness of this breach of safety.
In this case, no actual conflict occurred. But there was nothing preventing that aerobatic performer from turning directly into the path of an inbound airliner and, because of the radio problems, no way of warning the performer in time if he had turned toward the airliner. The performing pilot and everybody on the airliner were unnecessarily exposed to a safety hazard. Air boss carelessness of this sort is the antithesis of our industry’s initiative to change the culture of air show safety. Do not let this happen to you or at your event.