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(Photo courtesy of Chennault International Airport)

(Photo courtesy of Chennault International Airport)

Delay in Chennault airshow unfortunate

Last Modified: Thursday, March 20, 2014 4:52 PM

Pulling together an airshow is no easy task. It’s a huge undertaking that takes a year to prepare and major corporate sponsors to get the big acts that draw large crowds.

Officials at Chennault International Airport — which hosted it first airshow in 15 years last year — announced Monday they will not have an airshow this year.

It’s commendable that Chennault International Airport gave it a go after such a long break.

By all accounts the show itself and the lineup airshow organizers brought in were entertaining. Performers included the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team, Kevin Coleman Aerosports, Red Tail Squadron and the show’s headlining act, the Black Diamond Jet Team.

Randy Robb, president of the airshow’s board of directors and Chennault’s executive director, said the goal is to bring more military demonstrations and exciting jet team performances.

If Chennault could land the Blue Angels, that would be a huge draw — a top headlining act.

This year’s show took two blows — both out of the control of event organizers. The Black Diamond Jet Team’s Sunday performance was canceled due to rain and one of the show’s booked performers, Wing Walker Jane Wicker, was killed during a plane crash months before the Chennault airshow.

Officials with the nonprofit organization said they need more time to gather resources and recruit committee members before the airshow will return.

The organization spent $350,000 on the airshow and has about $20,000 remaining. The board gave some money to Sowela Technical Community College and some to the Calcasieu Parish School Board for aviation programs, and retains about $10,000 for seed money for the next airshow.

On the bright side, the airshow turned a profit, albeit less than 6 percent of the total budget. Organizers did get some corporate support from around the area, including various plants and the Port of Lake Charles. The success of the 2013 airshow will encourage more corporate sponsorship. An event like an airshow cannot rely strictly on the money from the gate to stay in the black.

It’s unfortunate the Chennault International Airshow won’t be turned into an annual affair, but it’s encouraging that organizers say they are going to try to put one on in 2015.

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