Reflections on Retirement from Bill Lowe

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 For as long as I can remember, flight has been a fascination of mine. Childhood buddies named Jack, Ed, John and others would join in bike rides to the local grass strip airport in central Pennsylvania. Countless hours were spent checking out the aircraft in the tie downs — overwhelmingly Piper Cubs or the like — and those in the boneyard which — during the late 1940s and early 1950s — included some World War II aircraft that had passed to private owners. We saw the first of the Piper Apaches and Cessna 310s appear on the scene and eventually were offered rides in a number of aircraft…which we readily accepted! First flight for me was in an Ercoupe that was based at that airport. Mom would have gone apoplectic, had she known about it. Ah, but that was a far different time from today.

The thirst to become a pilot was finally quenched at the airport in Brockport, New York in my 40th year. Becoming a member of that select fraternity of private pilots was and remains a deeply treasured accomplishment.

My interest in all things in the air naturally led to membership at the National Warplane Museum (NWM) in Geneseo, New York where I became a tour guide and, for six years, served on the Board of Trustees. It was there in 1988 that Ken Moses, the long-time announcer for the group’s annual air show, asked me to join him as a volunteer on the mike, based on my interest in airplanes and lengthy experience as a radio news guy. He and I would go on to continue that joint announcing venture at that show for a dozen years during which time it reigned as one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, all-warbird shows in the nation.

1988 was also the year that I began solo announcing at other shows, having discovered that one could get PAID to do that! Casting about for a business name, I settled on Big Mouth Productions…primarily because those who knew me assured me it was fitting.

One year later, at the Sussex, New Jersey air show, I met an adorable red-headed gal named Nancy Krikorian who was a volunteer for that show and was also learning to fly there. I had gone there as a crew member on the NWM’s B-17. Exactly one year after our meeting, we were married at that very same show while standing under the nose of that B-17 named “Fuddy Duddy.”

At first, Nancy would go along on my air show announcing gigs and assumed responsibility for reminding me to plug the sponsors, mention the concessions, warn against smoking by the planes, and other such housekeeping details. Knowing her background as a singer with a band and aware of her performance capabilities, I convinced her around 1992 to pick up the mike and do those things herself. Thus was born the first husband and wife announcing team in North American air show history.

In the many years that have passed since that time, we have been honored to narrate shows as far west as Colorado and as far south as Florida, and have also served as announcers for many years at shows in our hometown of Rochester. There have even been solo announcing and emcee duties for me at EAA’s Air Venture in Oshkosh.

Nancy and I have become life-long friends with members of what has become our air show family, have seen some incredible aerial demonstrations, and had the thrill of being front and center in the effort to share the experience with the wonderful folks who attend those shows.

In more recent years, my very talented wife became volunteer chairman of the ICAS Foundation following the untimely passing of Caroline Trinkwalder. Nancy spent tons of selfless hours dedicated to keeping the Foundation going, a chore that at times seemed to me to be far more challenging than herding cats. She was also the driving force behind the creation of the first Foundation-backed museum exhibit honoring members of the Air Show Hall of Fame. She designed the display and, with the help of mostly family member volunteers, built and installed it. Lunar Sawyer was able to arrange space for the display at the Florida Air Museum at Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland and it is well worth a look.

But now, we feel the time has come for us to make a graceful exit and that is why we announced at the Northeast Council of Air Shows Conference in February that we are retiring from air show announcing at the end of 2018. The time is right to step aside and let the next generation have a go at it.

We will be eternally grateful to all those who hired us during our decades in the business, to the performers who so readily welcomed us into their elite world, and especially to the audiences who have reacted so warmly to our efforts to connect them to the aerial entertainment. It has been a helluva ride!

Nancy and I plan to attend the ICAS Convention in December to say our goodbyes to our treasured friends in that air show family. Of course, you’ll probably be able to talk us into “hoisting a few” just for old time’s sake!

And while we’ll be off the mikes, count on seeing us on the spectator side or as volunteers at air shows in the future. Once this business gets into your blood, you can never completely give it up!

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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.