2018 ICAS Convention: A Photographic Retrospective

Photos by Larry Grace

Nearly 1,600 air show professionals gathered at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel during the first week of December for the 2018 ICAS Convention to unofficially complete the 2018 air show season and continue preparation for the 2019 campaign.

“Total attendance was 1,583, which got us very close to the record of 1,605 set in 2002,” said ICAS President John Cudahy. “But, even more than the increase in attendance, we were pleased with the activity on the exhibit hall floor and a sharp increase in the number of event organizers attending our event.”

As part of the overall increase in attendance from 2017 to 2018, ICAS welcomed an additional 110 delegates who identified themselves as “event organizers.” This represents a 16.9% increase among those generally recognized to be the “buyers” at the ICAS Convention, an increase that was reflected in more business being done in the exhibit hall.

But recognizing that a picture is worth at least a thousand words, we’ll rely largely on images to recap some of what happened from December 3 through 6 in Las Vegas.

To help kick off the 2018 Convention, nearly 1,600 delegates gathered in the general session room for the traditional welcome reception, this year organized under the theme of “Wings over ICAS.”

With more event organizers participating in the ICAS Convention than in any year since 2002, the exhibit hall was unusually busy throughout the 2018 convention. In a post-convention survey of delegates, a near-record percentage of delegates agreed both that, “There was a higher level of enthusiasm at this year’s convention than at previous ICAS Conventions I have attended,” and that “There was more business done on the exhibit hall floor during the most recent convention than at previous ICAS Conventions I have attended.” More than 89% of those responding to the survey said that the quality of the exhibit hall sessions was outstanding or good.

“The exhibit hall is the heart of our annual convention,” says ICAS President John Cudahy. “And that heart was beating louder and stronger in 2018 than it has in many years.”

Air show legend and ICAS Foundation Air Show Hall of Fame member Gene Soucy reached into the back of his closet to pull out this shirt from his days with the Red Devils. Fellow legend Charlie Hillard formed the team in 1971 with wingmen Soucy and Tom Poberezny. By 1979, the team had transitioned to the Christen Eagle aerobatic biplane and renamed themselves The Eagles Aerobatic Team.  

The Board of Directors of the Idaho Falls Air Show made a surprise presentation to the ICAS Foundation during the Pinnacle Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, December 5. In recognition for all of the valuable tips, ideas and skills that representatives of the show have picked up at the ICAS Convention over the years, the Board made a $5,000 contribution to the Foundation.

Ted Plana (left), Mickey Markoff (center) and Rudy Malnati (right) had a Chicago Air & Water Air Show alumni reunion in the hallways of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel on the first day of the 2018 ICAS Convention. Plana and Markoff are now involved with the Hyundai Air & Sea Show in Miami Beach. Malnati has been affiliated with the Chicago show for more than half a century.

Motivational speaker and former SR-71 pilot Brian Shul delivered the opening keynote address to convention delegates, recounting his experiences as both a Vietnam War-era fighter pilot and his time flying the SR-71 Blackbird, the iconic, long-range, Mach 3, strategic reconnaissance aircraft. Convention delegates rated him as the fourth strongest keynote speaker in ICAS Convention history.

The ICAS Genius Bar made its debut at the 2018 Convention. Staffed by subject matter experts on a wide range of issues , this new feature provided one-on-one time for convention delegates with specific questions and challenges. Work is already underway to offer an even better version of the Genius Bar at the 2019 convention.

Pilots for the Thunderbirds, F-22 Raptor demo team, Snowbirds, Blue Angels, CF-18 demo team, A-10 demo team, F-35 demo team and F-16 demo team all took time out of their convention activities for a rare group photo during one of the 2018 ICAS Convention’s exhibit hall sessions.

Central to the overall value and importance of the ICAS Convention is the extensive education program offered as part of the event. The 2018 ICAS Convention included nearly 50 different seminars, workshops, break-out sessions and other education opportunities. In a post-convention survey, delegates rated the overall quality of this convention to be among the top four of the last 20 years.

The traditional end-of-convention Chairman’s Banquet provided convention delegates with an opportunity to celebrate the end of the 2018 air show season, launch the 2019 season and pay tribute to some of our industry’s leaders, pioneers and innovators.

The ICAS Foundation once again held a live auction during the dinner portion of the Chairman’s Banquet program. Auctioneer Christian Kolberg helped the ICAS membership raise more than $40,000 to support a wide variety of Foundation programs.

Longtime air show performer Julie Clark and European Airshow Council Board Chairman Gilbert Buekenberghs were recognized as 2018 recipients of the prestigious ICAS Sword of Excellence during ceremonies at the Chairman’s Banquet during the ICAS Convention in Las Vegas.

Julie was recognized as a trailblazer, mentor, role model and leader during an air show career that now spans four decades. Her personal story of overcoming adversity, persevering and exceling in a male-dominated industry has been a source of inspiration to millions. During the last 30 years, Gilbert helped to form and build the European Airshow Council, the sister organization of ICAS serving air show professionals in Europe and North Africa. From meeting planner, safety advocate and goodwill ambassador to publisher, politician and publicist, he did all that was necessary to build the EAC into an organization delivering significant benefits to its members and changing forever the trajectory of the entire European air show business.

Chris, Brooke, Marilyn and Neal (from left to right) Darnell were named recipients of the Art Scholl Memorial Showmanship Award during the ICAS Convention for their work building and operating the Shockwave/Aftershock/Flash Fire stable of jet-powered vehicles. The award is presented each year to the performer who best exemplifies the qualities of showmanship demonstrated by Art Scholl during his air show career. The Darnells are shown here accepting the award from Judy Scholl (far right). During the award presentation ceremony on December 6, the Darnells were lauded for the multi-dimensional entertainment experience they bring to air shows, as well as their consistency, reliability and professionalism.

In recognition of her work as the Federal Aviation Administration’s national aviation events specialist and principal policy liaison with the U.S. air show community, Sue Gardner was presented with the Bob Hoover Wingman Award during the Chairman’s Banquet. Gardner was cited for the effort and commitment she has made to establish a partnership between the FAA and the air show community that has focused on improving air show safety without imposing undue regulatory burden on industry.

For the work that it did to combine a regional Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) Fair with its annual open house to create a powerhouse public affairs event, MacDill Air Force Base and its Tampa Bay AirFest and STEAM Fair were named as the 2018 recipient of the Dick Schram Memorial Community Relations Award. MacDill displayed 50 different STEAM exhibits for 1,300 students from 29 different schools on the Friday before their weekend show. And less than half the overall air show is now funded using government appropriated funds, due to a unique and successful partnership with local businesses.

The ICAS Foundation welcomed Terry Grevious into the Air Show Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Las Vegas as part of the ICAS Convention.  Grevious was recognized for an air show career that has spanned more than 30 years, including nearly a quarter century as executive director of the Muskegon Air Fair and nearly 15 years as director of the Dayton Air Show. Widely respected as one of the top event organizers in North America, Grevious developed the Muskegon show into a perennially successful event despite not being able to host a jet team for its first 17 years. He assumed management of the Dayton Air Show in 2004 and has maintained its reputation as one of the world’s top air shows for a decade and a half.

In recognition of his half-century career as an air show pilot, Walt Pierce was also inducted into the ICAS Foundation Air Show Hall of Fame. A Roswell, New Mexico native, Pierce spent nearly all of his air show career as a wingwalking pilot in his 450 Stearman biplane affectionately nicknamed Ol’ Smokey. Over 50 years, Pierce flew with as many as 30 different wingwalkers, including his wife, Sandi, and daughter, Chandelle. “Flying is all I ever wanted to do and that’s all I’ve ever done,” Pierce once said.  Walt his shown her with his two adult daughters.

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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.