If enthusiasm were enough to fuel a revival of London’s airshow, it wouldn’t have taken 12 years to get it done. If all it took was passion and commitment, Gerry Vanderhoek and Jim Graham would have created a new event in 2006, the year after the longstanding London International Air Fest was jettisoned.
So no, enthusiasm is not the only ingredient required. You need sponsors and airplanes and pilots and volunteers. But without enthusiasm – an almost evangelical level of belief in the concept – you don’t find sponsors willing to hand over tens of thousands of dollars. You don’t get a thumbs-up from Canada’s CF18s and Snowbirds, not to mention the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, the most sophisticated fighter jet in the world. You don’t get an agreement with Fanshawe College to include students from its aviation technology and public safety programs in the event.
You need all of that to create the new Airshow London, a non-profit annual event kicking off Sept. 17 and 18 at the London International Airport.
As you can read in this month’s Business London cover story, Graham, Vanderhoek and a few of their pals have been working for years to make it happen. When the London show died, they took their talents to St. Thomas, where they helped create the Great Lakes International Airshow. It runs every other year and is a go for this June.
Three years ago, they left the St. Thomas show and turned their attention to reviving the London show. The key was to work contacts across North America Gerry (pronounced Gary) had developed over the years. “He’s a rock star in the airshow world,” Graham, CEO of Try Recycling, says. “Everyone knows him. It’s quite amazing.”
The new airshow will be smaller than its predecessor, at least initially. The budget is a fairly modest $500,000, and organizers are hoping to sell at least 25,000 tickets. They hope the new September date, moved from the old June date, will be popular, and they hope -- really hope -- for good weather that weekend.
With more than 500 airshows planned for North America this year, the new Airshow London faces real competition for exciting exhibits and planes. The lineup looks promising – an impressive display to kick off the new show. The team running it knows what its doing and may be the only people in London hoping summer goes by quickly so they get to their big weekend in September – something they’ve been dreaming about for 12 years.