OPS BULL - ICAS Operations Bulletin 5 October 2018

Posted on 05 October 2018 by Louise Hofmeyr

Volume 11, Number 5, Friday, October 5, 2018


Every briefing at a North American air show includes a variation of the phrase, "No brief, no fly." The pre-show safety briefing is a critical safety event that helps set the stage for a successful show, clarifies possible areas of confusion or misunderstanding at each individual air show site, and assists all personnel involved in the show to provide appropriate and precise feedback and to ensure that all aspects of the show go off without a hitch.  It is the place to identify and deconflict hazards…hazards of which others may have otherwise been unaware.

Regulatory officials, ICAS and most veteran air show professionals have long considered attendance at the pre-show briefing to be a mandatory requirement for all performers. Regulatory guidance in both the United States and Canada mandate that at least one flying member of a performing team should represent that team. Occasionally, conditions such as remotely based aircraft or weather-related problems can mandate that a performer be given a phone briefing or individual briefing. But missing the group briefing for matters of convenience rather than necessity should be absolutely prohibited. At every air show, attendance at the briefing must supersede any other obligation or commitment, including autograph signing, sponsor interaction, and press flights and interviews. 

The FAA has made attendance at the pre-show briefing an item of emphasis for the remainder of the 2018 and into the 2019 air show season.  Due to the incalculable benefits to safety, ICAS fully supports these efforts and encourages all performers to maximize their participation in this critical facet of air show preparation.


As part of the recently completed ICAS Air Boss Academy at MCAS Miramar in late September, ICAS conducted an informal and non-scientific survey of a representative cross-section of ICAS members. Here's what they had to say: 

1.   Lack of competence. According to many performers, there is a surprising lack of basic competence among some air bosses, even among those with many years of experience. And the performers believe that putting the wrong person in that position is potentially dangerous.

2.   Briefings. Performers believe that getting the right balance of enough information, but not too much is one of the biggest challenges facing air bosses. On the one hand, there are too many briefings in which the important information never gets properly covered. On the other hand, some air bosses use the briefing as an opportunity to grandstand and to show people how much they know. 

3.   Failure to establish command and control. The very name "air boss" presumes that this individual will take control and use that position to make the air show safer. If every accident is the result of a chain of individual problems that, together, cause an accident, then the air boss should see himself/herself as the "chain breaker," the one person charged with identifying hazards of any sort and interrupting accident chains before the accidents happen.

4.   Unnecessary talk/chatter on the radio. Pilots must monitor the air show frequency, but when that frequency is too busy, the performers are subjected to an unnecessary and potentially dangerous distraction. Some performers are distracted. Others just turn the volume down or switch to another frequency, which introduces a different problem. Air bosses need to exercise better radio discipline.

5.   Poor briefing preparation. The failure of air bosses to include necessary photos, maps and diagrams during the briefing to explain key issues related to position of aerobatic box, location of various flight lines and crowd lines. An air boss is expected to do the preparatory work necessary to conduct a thorough and clear briefing.

6.   Lack of decisiveness. It's one of a handful of absolute requirements. Whether by training or temperament, an air boss needs to make good decisions quickly and communicate those decisions clearly and immediately to the performing pilots.

7.   Mid-performance request by air boss to shorten an act. Mid-performance requests by air bosses for unplanned changes to a performer's sequence have long-been understood to be a no-no in our business, but that doesn't always stop air bosses from trying to correct scheduling problems by making unreasonable requests of performing pilots in the middle of a performance.

8.   Failure of the air boss to act as an advocate for the performers with the event organizers. Think of it as a "safety ombudsman." Even when the performer can't or won't speak on his/her own behalf, the air boss should be fully engaged on behalf of those performers.

9.   Discrete frequencies. The air boss is expected to be the one individual advocating for the availability of discrete frequencies when the FAA, airport management, air traffic control and others say that they're not necessary.

10. Early morning briefings. Sometimes they are unavoidable, but performers would like air bosses to advocate more enthusiastically on their behalf when event organizers plan very early morning briefings. Performers are particularly concerned when air bosses suggest that it is "whiny" for a performer to raise crew rest issues. Long days are a legitimate safety concern and performers expect air bosses to take that concern seriously.


Following on the heels of a successful series of internet-based townhall meetings at the end of the summer, ICAS will be hosting a pair of autumn town halls in the coming weeks for performers and for ICAS ACEs to discuss outstanding issues from the previous townhall and to continue an open dialogue in advance of the annual ICAS Convention in Las Vegas.   

The dates of the townhalls will be as follows:

October 23rd 1:00 pm EDT:  All current ICAS Aerobatic Competency Evaluators
October 24th 1:00 pm EDT:  All current Statement of Aerobatic Competency Card holders

Call in instructions and an agenda will be sent in a separate email on October 9, 2018.  Participation is optional, but ICAS sees these virtual meetings as a simple, effective tool for increasing dialogue within the performer community. 


For a decade, putting the most efficient egress information into the hands of the first responders has gone from a poorly publicized project to a widely praised professional tool that the FAA will soon require for all air shows. There is confusion in the field as to how this tool works, so let's all get on the same page.

Six weeks from the first day of an ICAS member air show, the ICAS database goes into the ICAS Air Show Calendar to find all performers listed to perform at that air show. Our custom software combines all the available extraction information for those performers into a single PDF file. That file is then sent six weeks, four weeks, two weeks and one week from the show date to the email address for the person listed in the ICAS database as the air show's primary point of contact. ICAS requests and expects that primary contact point to pass this extraction information along to the appropriate operations person for the event.

To insure the most accurate information, it is critical that both event organizers and performers do their part to maximize the chance for success. Air show organizers must confirm that the list of performers on the ICAS Air Show Calendar is complete and accurate. Leaving off one performer may result in that performer's information being left out of your show's packet. Performers must make sure that they are listed on the ICAS Air Show Calendar and that their emergency extraction information is loaded onto the ICAS website. A performer can add, edit or simply confirm their extraction information by hitting the "edit" button on their organization profile page on the ICAS website.

Please contact Dan Hollowell at hollowell@airshows.aero with any questions. 

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Phone: 703-779-8510
E-mail: icas@airshows.aero
Website: www.airshows.aero