Selecting Your Air Boss


There are more than 350 air show events held each year in North America. There are less than two dozen “professional” air bosses and, of those, only a handful do more than five shows a year. There is no obligation for your show to use a contract or paid air boss, but it is important that your event recognize the importance of using a well-trained, experienced and reliable air boss to coordinate the aviation portion of your event. 

There is no regulatory requirement for or definition of an air show air boss. There is no regulatory requirement for training as an air boss. There is no currency requirement or medical requirement to serve as an air show air boss, yet the air boss plays one of the major roles in assuring the safety of your event.  

What should you look for when hiring an air boss?  

* You might consider looking outside your local community. Airport acquaintances and flying buddies typically do not have the requisite experience to put together a safe and entertaining air show.  

* Next, ask for references from at least three shows in the preceding 12 months. Call those references and ask for a confidential assessment of the air boss’s performance. Ask about the brief, the schedule, how it was set up, and how it went. Were there long delays between performers or did the air boss keep things running smoothly? Were there contingencies and, if so, how were they handled?  

* A good air boss will have a solid briefing. He or she will assure that the air show box is properly marked and have a graphic for the performers showing the reference/crowd lines, corner markers and obstacles. He will have an ingress and egress plan for the hot box and for aircraft that have to be moved from the static display area. He will want to pre-position CFR on the performance side of the crowd line and require that they have a representative present for the briefing.  

* A good air boss will know how to tighten up a loose show. He will know when to put the aircraft on the ground and when to tell a performer to “knock it off.” And he or she will not hesitate to do so.  

* A good air boss is strong willed, wants to and likes to be in charge, and can do so without creating conflict. He or she may be the difference between the success and failure of your event.  

Take your time. Spend the resources. Choose wisely. Lives may depend on your selection.

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The International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) is a trade association dedicated to building and sustaining a vibrant air show industry to support its membership. To achieve this goal, ICAS demands its members operate their air show business at only the highest levels of safety, professionalism, and integrity.