Recently, the ICAS office has fielded some questions concerning the sterile area at air shows. What are they? Who is allowed in them? Who is in charge of keeping them sterile? FAA Order 8900.1 Volume 3, Chapter 6 is commonly accepted as the rulebook by which air shows are governed in the United States, and this document states clearly the answer to these questions.
According to the FAA: “With respect to crowd control, it is the event organizer’s responsibility to ensure that all reasonable efforts are made to confine spectators to the spectator areas, ensure that sterile areas are evacuated and remain sterile, and to present a plan to the IIC (Inspector-in-Charge) in sufficient detail that specifies how this will be accomplished and who is responsible to police the aviation event.”
The performer pit or warm-up area is considered one of these sterile areas. This means that no person shall be permitted in this area who is not directly involved with the aircraft’s movement. Aircraft marshals, gas and smoke oil trucks, crew and performers are the only persons that should be in the sterile area. Sponsors, families, spectators, FAA inspectors, friends and pets should be watching from a designated spectator area. Maintaining a sterile pit area elevates the safety of both the performers and the spectators. The performers are not distracted by worrying about non-essential personnel and the spectators do not have to worry about moving aircraft.
The responsibility and plan for maintaining the sterility of the pit area falls on the shoulder of the event organizer and should be considered sacrosanct.