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Air Show Risks
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Air Show Risks

Air Show Risks ... The enclosed photograph was taken at the 1919 Oakland Air Show by Oakland Tribune photographer Bill Crouch. This picture was captioned "a five-foot near-miss:" and was published in papers all over the country, won a Pulitzer prize, and because of its caption, caused much unfavorable publicity for air shows.

It is true that depth perception is not easily discernible in a photograph, however, had these planes been anywhere near each other, the size of the Stearman would have been approximately the same as the distance between the two engines on one wing of the B-29. In reality (and I was present at the Oakland Air Show along with many hundreds who could substantiate this) these planes passed each other with at least a 500 foot clearance, which, according to C.A.A. regulations, is a legal passing distance.

The flight of Army B-29's was scheduled to fly over and Chet Derby, the pilot of the Stearman, was advised of this fact before taking off. The B-29's were in constant radio contact with the Oakland control tower and were informed of the stunt plane passing below them. Therefore, although this is an outstanding picture, properly captioned it would have been of no value from a news standpoint.

As a result of this picture a good many editorials and letters to the editor published in various aviation magazines have referred to air shows as being haphazard exhibitions of daredevil tricks which result in causing a great deal of risk both to the spectators as well as the participants in the show and in addition, are a detriment to commercial flying.

In analyzing these statements, first consider the reference that such shows are haphazard and a risk to everyone involved. Air shows are operated under a Waiver granted by the C.A.A. Application for such a waiver is made at least two weeks prior to the show and is approved only after officials of this office have studied the schedule of acts and participants and concluded that the show will be safe for both the spectators and participants. During the show, a C.A.A. representative is on hand to see that their regulations and safety measures are strictly observed.

All shows in which I have participated have been insured by Lloyds of London, a firm dealing strictly with facts. If they anticipated any danger of loss whatsoever or if from their statistics air shows had proven to have a poor record of risk, an application for insurance would never be considered.

"A five-foot near-miss"

As for being detrimental to commercial flying, air shows have no connection with commercial flying. To make such a comparison is as logical as comparing everyday automobile driving with the Indianapolis Speedway Race or a swimming and diving meet with ordinary swimming. A spectator does not leave the Speedway determined never to drive an automobile again because of the dangers he has witnessed, or return from a swimming meet afraid to go swimming because he has witnessed some hair-raising stunts off the diving board. The public has common sense enough to realize that there is no comparison between these exhibitions and the phase applicable to their everyday routine. So it is with air shows - the participants are men who have spent many hours of practice to perfect their particular acts. There should be no confusion in anyone's mind as to the difference between this kind of flying and commercial aviation.

In the past most of these letters and complaints against air shows have been written by people who are commonly referred to by the general public as "cranks." The picture which they have painted of air shows is as distorted and erroneous as the caption "a five-foot near-miss" on the picture of Chet Derby's stunt plane passing under the B-29. I believe that it is time the true facts surrounding air shows and their operation be brought before the public in order to correct a popular misapprehension.

V. J. Dierker, Alameda, Calif.




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