Air Shows

An air show is an event at which aviators display their flying skills and the capabilities of their aircraft to spectators in aerobatics (20091). There are also air shows that do not have aerobatic displays where the aircraft are displayed on the ground which are called “static air shows” (20091).

(Video embedded from YouTube on 4 October 2009)

Why are air shows held?

There are a number of reasons that air shows are held throughout the world. Some of the air shows are held as part of a business venture or trade event where aircraft, avionics and other services are promoted to customers (20091). Other air shows are to support charities including that of the military air shows which are held in appreciation of the general publics ongoing support, promoting careers in the military and to raise their profile (20091).

Air shows are held are different times in the year throughout the world. The European season has one of the longer seasons of air shows as it starts in late April or early May and goes through till the middle of October (20091). The United States runs their air shows from March to November. Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East have a much shorter season as they hold their events between January and March (20091). When the air shows are not taking place, throughout the world, the aircraft undergo maintenance and there is continual training and practice sessions for the pilots (20091).

Types of air shows.

There are a number of different types of air show which can range in size and can include (20091):

  • Military events – generally involving a significant number of flight displays and exhibitions on the military base.
  • Local air shows – held at a local aerodrome and generally involves less flight displays and only a few marquees with exhibitions inside.

The air displays that take place at these air shows are limited by a number of restrictions including the weather which can also affect visibility on the day (or night), and any local airspace restrictions (20091). The location of an air show depends on why the event is taking place, for example when unveiling a new aircraft, the manufacturer may want to showcase it at an event which will be attended by many people including potential customers, as seen when the A380 made an appearance at the 2009 EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, US.


Air shows use to be connected with long distance air races which often lasted many days, however, the Reno Air Races is the only air race that keeps this going as most air shows today feature much shorter aerial displays (20091). Most air shows include (20091):

  • Aerobatics,
  • Military aircraft demonstrations,
  • Warbirds,
  • Other aeronautical attractions – wing-walking, firefighting aircraft demonstrations, radio-controlled aircraft, simulated helicopter rescues and sky diving or parachuting.

The solo military jet demonstrations involve one aircraft (strike fighter or an advanced trainer) to showcase what the aircraft can do in combat operations. This display can include showing how the aircraft can takeoff quickly in a short distance; how fast it can fly along with slow approaches; tight turns; quick climbs; and their easy maneuverability at different speeds (20091). These jet demonstrations can also include some form of simulated bomb drops with the aid of pyrotechnics on the ground for effect (20091). Aircrafts with special features that give them unique abilities will often display them in their demonstrations (20091), for example a Harrier pilot may perform a vertical landing or vertical takeoff as seen in the video below.

(Video embedded from YouTube on 4 October 2009)


Although air shows are a great way to showcase the many different aircraft and their abilities, they also pose a number of risks for spectators and pilots (20091). There have been a number of accidents occurring at air shows for example, the world's worst air show accident to date was at the Sknyliv Air Show near Lviv, Ukraine in 2002, when a SU-27 aircraft crashed during an aerobatics presentation killing 85 spectators and injuring 100 others who were watching on the ground (20093). As a result of this accident and others alike, there are now strict rules and regulations for air displays which differs depending on the rating of the pilot or crew, the type of aircraft and the way the aircraft is being flown, for example a slower smaller aircraft can fly closer and lower over crowds then a larger, faster aircraft (20091).

Major World Air Shows.

There are a number of air shows that take place every year throughout the world. Some of the main air shows include (20092):

  • Abbotsford International Airshow (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada) - Canada's largest airshow.
  • Aero India (Yelahanka Air Force Base, Bangalore, India)
  • Asian Aerospace (Hong Kong)
  • Australian International Airshow (Avalon Airport, Victoria, Australia)
  • Berlin Air Show - ILA (Internationale Luft- und Raumfahrtausstellung) (Berlin, Germany) - oldest aviation show in the world.
  • China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition (China)
  • Danish Air Show (Denmark)
  • Dubai Airshow (Dubai)
  • EAA AirVenture Oshkosh (Oshkosh, Wisconsin, U.S.) - America's largest annual gathering of aviation enthusiasts.
  • Iran Airshow (Kish, Iran)
  • Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (Langkawi, Malaysia)
  • Light Aviation Airshow (West Africa) - biggest light aviation air show in West Africa.
  • MAKS Airshow (Russia)
  • Paris Air Show (Paris, France) - international trade fair for the aerospace business.
  • Radom Air Show (Radom, Poland)
  • Reno Air Races (Reno, Nevada, U.S.)
  • Royal Netherlands Air Force open days (Various military airports in the Netherlands)
  • Royal International Air Tattoo (RAF Fairford, United Kingdom) –world’s largest military air show.
  • Singapore Airshow (Singapore)
  • Sunderland International Airshow (Seaburn, Sunderland, England, United Kingdom) - biggest free annual airshow in Europe.
  • Tannkosh (Tannheim, Germany) - European equivalent to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.
  • Warbirds over Wanaka (Wanaka, New Zealand) - biennial air show in Wanaka, held on the Easter weekend of even-numbered years.
  • Wings Over Gillespie (Commemorative Air Force static airshow, El Cajon, California, U.S.)
1. WIKIPEDIA (2009). Air Shows. Retrieved from Wikipedia on 28 September 2009.
2. WIKIPEDIA (2009). List of air shows. Retrieved from Wikipedia on 4 October 2009.
3. WIKIPEDIA (2009). Sknyliv airshow disaster. Retrieved from Wikipedia on 4 October 2009.

Want to know more?

Air Shows - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh
This AviationKnowledge page offers further information about EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.
Air Shows - Warbirds over Wanaka
This AviationKnowledge page offers further information about the Warbirds over Wanaka Air Show.

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