ICAS Completes Work on Air Boss Recognition Program, Revision One

Posted on 04 May 2018 by Louise Hofmeyr

Volume 11, Number 2, May 4, 2018


The nearly decade-long effort by ICAS and dozens of ICAS members to develop and refine the Air Boss Recognition Program (ABRP) is complete. The eleventh and final draft of Revision One of the ABRP Manual can be found here. A few process issues will be resolved before the end of May, but the substance and details of the program are now final.

“This is an organic document that will evolve with time and experience,” says ICAS President John Cudahy. “Just like the Aerobatic Competency Evaluation program that ICAS has been administering for more than a quarter century, we know that this program will change as we begin to implement and live with it. But we have now completed work on the program that will start that process.” 

This final version of Revision One bears little resemblance to the first draft released nearly six years ago. Experience, training, and renewal requirements have changed – sometimes dramatically – as a result of feedback received by ICAS from members during the development of the program. 

“Frankly, the program has become a bit more complicated as we have integrated suggestions from and reacted to concerns expressed by our members,” says Dan Hollowell, ICAS Vice President of Safety and Operations. “We don’t like that it’s more complicated, but we know that the additional complexity has made it a better program that will improve safety, increase professionalism and be accessible to a larger percentage of our members.”

Final details on the implementation schedule for the new program will be announced within the next three weeks. 


For nearly five years, ICAS has been offering a platform to distribute emergency extraction information for performers to their air shows.  With the coming changes in FAA policy that require emergency extraction information to be part of the air show Emergency Response Plan, ICAS will be aggressively pushing performers to utilize this tool during the next several weeks.  

Air shows that have implemented compulsory submission of emergency extraction have been lauded by industry experts and performers.  With changes to FAA policy looming, it is critical that you take advantage of the time you have now to complete your extraction package before it impacts your ability to participate in an air show.

If you have not yet submitted your emergency extraction information to ICAS to be included in its growing database of emergency extraction information, consider taking a couple minutes with a cell phone and knock out this one-time project. ICAS estimates that, if you use the simple template that many other air show performers have used, it will take you less than 20 minutes to upload this information to ICAS.


Recent attacks on innocent civilians around the world are a sobering reminder to revisit security at large-scale events, including air shows. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has stated that the most impactful effort that can be made by administrators of large events is to increase the quantity and accessibility of communication avenues for all persons at an event. Often, successfully averting a disaster hinges on quickly responding to information through open channels of communication. Therefore, it is critical to encourage ALL persons at an air show -- performers, support service providers, show staff and especially spectators -- to speak up if they witness any suspicious activity. Everyone should be encouraged by the wisdom passed down by the FBI: If you see something, say something. 

The FBI encourages producers of events such as air shows to coordinate with state and local law enforcement to review security needs specific to their events. The best resources in law enforcement are those with intimate knowledge of the local demands placed on air show event organizers, and the local law enforcement personnel are encouraged by the federal government to reach out and work with event organizers to identify security gaps. So, take advantage of this opportunity before your show to review your security plan with the first responders in your area to analyze what you are doing well and to identify areas for improvement.

The simple phrase “if you see something, say something,” can be applied to much more than security in our business. It is our collective responsibility to report our concerns to a party that can take the necessary action to intervene before a suspicion becomes a tragedy. This proverb applies to more than just suspicious backpacks or bags. It applies to the person that knows their fellow performer had a long night or an early morning, or to the person that notices a liquid underneath a parked aircraft that should not be there. It applies to the person that identifies a conflict with the air show schedule that puts undue stress on a performer. It applies to the person that sees clumps of dead, dry grass throughout the parking lot and recognizes them as fire hazard. It applies to everyone that sees anything out of the ordinary that gives them cause for concern. It is then the duty of all of us to ensure that there is a mechanism in place for people with concerns to have their concerns heard quickly by a person with the authority to act in a manner that would negate the concern. 

There are countless ways to address almost any area of concern without making accusations or pointing fingers. But making a personal commitment to say something when we see something is probably the single most important thing we can do to improve safety and security in the air show industry.


In a discussion between air show professionals and aviation enthusiasts, the question was once asked, “How do you know what to do when the maneuver goes wrong?” The pilot’s simple response was, “Because I have flown that mistake before.” While that simple statement provides some insight into what level of practice is expected of professional air show pilots, it also gives us a chance to discuss an element that is crucial to any practice flights: flying the flaw. 

When practicing your air show maneuver sequence, it is important to practice the full routine uninterrupted, ad nauseam. Practicing your ideal profile builds muscle memory, and comfort with the sensory, visual and auditory feelings generated by the aircraft as you fly. This understanding of how the airplane flies and what it feels like to you when everything is OK is critical because it provides you with a clear, deep sense of what “normal” feels like, sounds like and looks like…an understanding that is particularly important for you to have when abnormalities occur. 

But, as always, there is a “yin” to that “yang” and it often goes ignored. In their pursuit of flying the perfect profile, some air show pilots forget about the value of flying – and even practicing – the imperfect profile. Deliberately mis-controlling the aircraft, cutting power at every inconvenient moment in a maneuver sequence and, generally, trying to make mistakes (at a safe altitude, of course) will give you the knowledge needed to adjust your profile to make it safer. “Flying the flaw” also allows you to more quickly identify a problem should it occur unexpectedly during a performance or practice sequence so that you can spend less time on diagnosing the problem and more time on solving it. 

Whether the maneuver is as docile as a photo pass or as aggressive as gyroscopics, it is critical to practice both the mistakes that you can make as well as the mistakes that the aircraft can make. “Flying the flaw” will let you know just where you need to add a buffer in your performance. For many, this type of pro-active effort to identify and mitigate likely hazards is a minimum prerequisite to be considered a truly professional air show performer.


As of January 1, 2020, ADS-B Out will be required in most controlled airspace in the United States. Pilots who are practicing aerobatics, performing in an air show, or competing in an event, will also be required to report their position via ADS-B Out. 

This requirement is no different from the current requirement to use an operating transponder for these types of flight operations. The FAA maintains that the capability of controllers and other pilots to identify and track aerobatic aircraft via ADS-B will enhance safety.

Here are the key points to remember, according to Sue Gardner, FAA national aviation events specialist:

·         There is an FAA Mandate for Operation of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out Equipment. After January 1, 2020, and unless otherwise authorized by ATC, ADS-B must be installed, operational, and used in the appropriate airspace, as required by 14 CFR Part 91 sections 91.225 and 91.227.

·         Requirements for all aircraft -- including ones performing aerobatics -- are as follows: 

o    ADS-B Out-equipped aircraft must have their ADS-B Out equipment turned on while in the waivered airspace for an aviation event or when flying in an aerobatic practice area. This regulation cannot be waived under section 91.905 of the Federal Aviation Regulations.

o    Reduced ADS-B Out avionics performance during aerobatic flight is expected, and the FAA does not consider this to be a condition of noncompliance to applicable regulations.

o    ADS-B OUT equipment installed on aircraft used while conducting aerobatic flight or aircraft certified for aerobatic flight must meet the performance requirements specified in section 91.227 when conducting non-aerobatic flights.

·         The FAA is stressing to aerobatic pilots that ADS-B Out is valuable for safety when an aerobatic aircraft is not performing dynamic maneuvers. It will transmit an aircraft’s identity and position to controllers and pilots of other aircraft equipped with ADS-B In, even if their aircraft is not being tracked on radar. In addition, equipping with ADS-B Out, and In, will help pilots of aerobatic aircraft travel safely to and from events.

·         The FAA is developing a new policy on the aerobatic use of ADS-B, available by this summer. The policy will be accessible in the FAA's Flight Standards Information Management System (Order 8900.1) and guidance in the advisory circular, AC 91-45D, Waivers: Aviation Events.

Gardner says the FAA policy for ADS-B is being written in the same way as for transponders. The transponder rule has no waiver under section 91.205. With few exceptions, pilots are required to turn on the transponder. 

© International Council of Air Shows, Inc.

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Phone: 703-779-8510

E-mail: icas@airshows.aero

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