2018 ICAS Pinnacle Awards Recap


Innovation and execution. Since 2014, the annual ICAS Pinnacle Awards have recognized air show organizations that best exemplified innovation and professional execution – the air show industry’s lifeblood for continuous improvement and long-term sustainability.  

In 2018, ICAS received approximately 70 Pinnacle Award entries in one of seven categories: support service providers, military performers, civilian performers, small civilian air shows (less than 15,000 spectators), mid-size civilian air shows (more than 15,000, less than 35,000 spectators), large civilian air shows (more than 35,000 spectators) and military air shows and open houses.

All entries were then reviewed and judged by an ICAS-selected panel of air show professionals to determine both the Platinum Pinnacle Award recipient (highest scoring entry) and the Gold Pinnacle Award recipient (runner-up) for each category. Judges scored entries based on five criteria:

Purpose – What was the principal purpose of the initiative? Was it to save money or increase revenue? Increase attendance? Improve safety or air show logistics?

Innovation – Did the idea represent an original concept? Did it take ideas from other industries and apply them to challenges or opportunities in the air show industry? If it was not a new concept, how did it represent a significant and positive departure?

Feasibility – Was the idea successfully applied, integrated or executed into the air show business?

Project Planning – Was the central idea systematically introduced into the air show community in a professional manner?

Execution – Was the effort successful? Did it have an impact?

Both Platinum and Gold Pinnacle Award recipients were announced on Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at the annual ICAS Convention’s Pinnacle Awards Luncheon in Las Vegas.

Support Service Providers

Platinum – FROST (Fast Response Operational Safety Team) for FROST Safety

In an effort to close the gap in emergency response, FROST (Fast Response Operational Safety Team) assembled a revolutionary safety team with only one goal in mind: to preserve human life in the event of an air show accident.

In doing so, FROST’s hallmark safety initiative includes: an intimate knowledge of performer aircraft and their individual emergency egress systems; being the first responders on the scene within seconds (a team that can administer lifesaving procedures in preparation for the arrival of on-site emergency personnel); and the utilization of state-of-the-art, lightweight rescue equipment to allow for faster mobility without compromising effectiveness. 

Since FROST began providing emergency services to air shows, the feedback from event organizers, local fire and rescue organizations, community leaders and performing pilots has been extremely positive.

Gold – WOW Airshow, LLC for its Air Show Safety Website

WOW Airshow, LLC’s Michel Pelletier came up with the idea to build a website entirely focused on air show safety by providing quick and easy access to detailed Crash Fire Rescue (CFR) extraction information for a variety of aircraft.

On www.airshowsafety.com, professionals can quickly access detailed extraction PDF files that provide diagrams and photographs of emergency egress systems for performing aircraft.

Performers can create and add their own CFR extraction videos to the site. All around, www.airshowsafety.com provides an invaluable asset that can save lives when every second counts.

Military Performers

Platinum – F-16 Viper Demo Team for their Social Media Strategy and 360 Video

The F-16 Viper Demo team entered the 2018 season with the goal of reaching more people to further its mission of inspiring the next generation of young men and women to join the U.S. Air Force.

To accomplish this, the team took a multi-faceted approach through social media that included high quality video content to boost its social media following. The most significant of the team’s 360 videos contained footage that provided new and unique visuals for audiences to experience from the cockpit.

Since the team began this project in April 2018, their social media presence has increased from 22,000 followers across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat to 117,000.

Gold – Canadian Forces Snowbirds for their Real-Time Itinerant Aircraft Safety Triage System

The best ideas are often the simplest. To increase safety, Captain Blake McNaughton of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds developed a real-time, itinerant aircraft safety triage system to address a number of airspace violations that occurred at the team’s shows.

By having the air boss mark the distance and direction of itinerant aircraft on a dry erase board, McNaughton was able to convey valuable information to performing team members without pausing communications.

Through coordination with the air boss, the effort not only improved safety but also provided a quick, safe and simple solution to a difficult and dangerous problem.  

Civilian Performers

Platinum – Twin Tigers Aerobatic Team for their LED Strips on Aerobatic Aircraft

In an effort to improve the long-term sustainability of night shows and generate interest in aviation, the Twin Tigers Aerobatic Team developed a unique method of attaching LED light strips to one of their Yak 55M aircraft.

Inspired by the futuristic “Tron” movie, the team applied the LED light strips by laying them out in parallel and perpendicular patterns to the relative airflow over the aircraft’s wings, as well as tail and flight control surfaces.

The team debuted its new night performance featuring the LED light strips at the TICO Warbird Airshow and Sun ‘n Fun in early 2018. Since then, the team has received widespread positive comments in the media and from fans on the team’s respective social media channels.

Gold – Immortal Red Baron for its “Immortal Red Baron” World War I Dogfighting Air Show Experience

Stefan Trischuk’s “Immortal Red Baron” performance seeks to combine narrative storytelling with live-action aerial dogfighting maneuvers, centered in the World War I era.

In his custom-built WWI replica fighter, re-designed to take the aerobatic stress of 10Gs and featuring an engine with three times the power of the original, the “Immortal Red Baron” includes characters in authentic costumes, propane machine guns, themed music, narration and sound effects to make the experience more engaging to the audience. 

Small Civilian Air Shows

Platinum – Santa Maria Airport for the Central Coast AirFest’s Legacy Film

In its inaugural year, the Santa Maria Airport’s Central Coast AirFest decided to embark on an ambitious and rewarding venture: to produce a professional, Hollywood-quality legacy film to promote the air show and inspire interest in aviation.

The film features both the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and the P-38 Lightning in tribute to the many World War II heroes who trained and piloted the aircraft from the Santa Maria Army Air Base during the global conflict.

Filmed above the beautiful central California coastline, the project created an exciting and engaging marketing message that linked the airport’s rich history with air show performers of today. It took four days of shooting and delivered over 60 hours of additional footage for the show to utilize and promote its future events.

Gold – Truckee Tahoe Air Show & Family Festival for its Emergency Response Initiatives

Since its return in 2012, following a 16-year hiatus, the Truckee Tahoe Air Show & Family Festival has worked to build one of the most effective and well-prepared emergency response plans in the industry.

Their plan consists of an FAA Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Fire Engine, a five-minute presentation during the pre-show briefing, paid Aircraft Rescue Firefighting training for all involved in the show’s emergency response, and a team of emergency personnel, law enforcement officials and emergency response volunteers from multiple jurisdictions.

Per the show’s safety standards, all fire trucks, ambulances and response vehicles are lined up on the flight line ready to go immediately. The team has also responded in less than 60 seconds in all unannounced practice drills for the past seven years.

Mid-Size Civilian Air Shows

Platinum – Duluth Air and Aviation Expo for its Weather Balloon Education Outreach

Since 2013, the Duluth Air and Aviation Expo has organized an annual program that provides weather balloon launch kits to various schools across the region, as a means of promoting STEM education and their air show. In doing so, the show invites the National Weather Service to conduct a pre-launch visit with the class to teach students about the data the weather balloons will be collecting.

This exercise has become a core piece of the curriculum in participating schools and has inspired the increase in other STEM coursework such as computer science and math in their schools.   

In coordination with government and local businesses, the Duluth show has been able to eliminate the project’s operating cost. Additionally, its success has led to increased brand recognition with local students and families.

Gold – Eastern Townships Air Show & Fair for its Job & Science Fair

For the past two years, the Eastern Townships Air Show & Fair has organized its Job & Science Fair to address the ongoing shortage of pilots and qualified aerospace workers in Quebec by connecting aspiring students with aviation industry recruiters.

Taking part in the fair were recruiters from over 30 aviation firms including GE Aviation, Martin Marietta, Canadian Aviation Electric, Transport Canada, Transport Quebec and Pratt & Whitney Canada. Participating students at both the high school and collegiate levels were able to network with working professionals. As a result, approximately 2,000 students submitted resumes and more than 800 applicants landed job interviews.

Large Civilian Air Shows

Platinum – Sun ‘n Fun for “Missionizing” Sun ‘n Fun Programming with STEM

To better support its 2018 STEM education mission and promote its weeklong air show, Sun ‘n Fun sought to share its content with both present attendees and virtual guests through the combined use of traditional and modern media.

Among its many projects, Sun ‘n Fun established social media sharing stations that invited patrons to “start and share the conversation” on various aerospace trends, an ESPN-style Preflight Show produced by LiveAirShowTV, Facebook Live reports and more live TV content. Additionally, the show implemented a first-person, virtual reality experience where viewers could join performers in the cockpit for an incredibly immersive air show experience.

Sun ‘n Fun’s promotion of the event yielded an expanded audience of more than 200,000 live stream viewers, 600,000 viewers on social media and over 20 million impressions for sponsors supporting the various components of the event.

Gold – Alliance Air Productions for its Veterans’ Village

In 2018, Alliance Air Productions (AAP) introduced the Veterans’ Village ground attraction to the Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show. Created to provide resources and support for recent active duty veterans transitioning to civilian life, AAP incorporated the Veterans’ Village as a place where local nonprofit organizations could display their services to and connect with veterans.

To accomplish this, AAP collaborated with GallantFew, a local organization with the mission to facilitate a peaceful and successful transition from military service to civilian life.

The 2018 endeavor consisted of a 4,000 square foot space that included picnic tables, involved ten non-profit organizations and led to a $5,000 donation to GallantFew by Bell, the show’s title sponsor. Furthermore, by having the Veterans’ Village sponsored by DynCorp International, the show saw a net revenue of 37 percent.

Military Air Shows & Open Houses

Platinum – NAS Oceana Air Show for its STEM Education Field Trip

In 2016, NAS Oceana Air Show forged an unparalleled and award-winning partnership with the Virginia Beach City Public School system designed to produce the “world’s largest outdoor STEM laboratory.” Since then, the program has evolved into an annual event that now includes the entire fifth grade class for all Virginia Beach public schools: 6,100 fifth grade students and 1,300 teachers and chaperones from 60 elementary schools.

In hosting a STEM Education Field Trip on the Friday practice day for the show, NAS Oceana Air Show has been able to create an educationally enriching environment for Virginia Beach fifth graders with a keen focus on STEM education and its applications in the real world.

Among its many STEM programs, NAS Oceana has incorporated programming that includes robotics, 3D printing, environmental exhibits, flight dynamics, engineering and more. Throughout the field trip, students visit various STEM-focused stations and get to meet and learn from various STEM specialists. Following the STEM field trip in 2018, the entire fifth grade class was then treated to a performance by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

Gold – MCAS Yuma Airshow for its “In The Cockpit” Social Media Series

In an effort to promote the 2018 Yuma Airshow on social media, the MCCS Yuma marketing team developed the “In The Cockpit” social media series. This year’s web series served as a way for fans to watch exclusive behind-the-scenes content of the work that goes into making the Yuma Airshow happen.

With six weekly videos posted leading up to the March 2018 event, the “In The Cockpit” series aimed to generate excitement and buzz by humanizing the Yuma Airshow and highlighting the staff that make the event possible. Through coordinated interviews, the series featured air show personnel who discussed both their role in the 2018 show as well as their experiences in the Marine Corps.

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Chris Morrison
Chris Morrison, ICAS Manager of Marketing, Communications and Digital Media. | Chris Morrison joined ICAS in August 2017, shortly after graduating from the College of William & Mary with a bachelor’s degree in business marketing. His prior work experience includes internships with EdgeConneX and Interstate Van Lines.